Prague – A Long Weekend Away

IMG_1891Our final stop on our Thanksgiving Weekend Away was in Prague for ~2 days. This post is going to only focus on what we did in Prague and the history of those spots. I will be doing separate posts on the Christmas Markets and my Recommendations and Tips. I’m going to break this post down day by day as I think that is probably the best way to handle the information in a concise way. And, one final thing before we get into the post, we fully plan on going back to Prague to do a little bit more exploring. I fell in love with the city and I feel like there is so much more to see. It’s only a couple hour drive (or train ride) so it’s totally feasible for us to go back.

Prague itself dates back to around the 2nd century, but it wasn’t until Charles IV came into power that it really started to find a place on the map. Prague has been through its fair share of ups and downs, crusaders, religious upheaval, and foreign occupations. It’s seen war, nonviolent revolutions, and a modern turn towards capitalism (and a big shift in consumerism). The city itself shows all the different stages of its history and I think that makes it so interesting and easy to explore. Every corner holds a different era.

Now, onto what we did in our short amount of time in Prague…

Afternoon Day 1

We arrived about midday in Prague and decided to start our time off at Prague Castle. This was the highest and furthest point that we wanted to go on this particular trip, so it seemed like a good place to start and work our way back from. We used the public transportation system (buses, street cars, and an underground metro) to get as close as we could and then walked the final hill to the castle entrance.

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Prague Castle dates it’s foundation laying to the 9th Century, with the Cathedral not being completed until the 20th Century. The castle itself is the largest castle complex in the world. The castle itself is made up of three large courtyards with the cathedral being the most prominent. It dominates any view of Prague and for quite a while was the seat of various rulers. In modern day, it happens to be the seat of the President of the Czech Republic.

Before you even head into the castle, the views overlooking Prague are incredible. Within the castle walls, you walk up the street and see St. George’s Basilica. This is the oldest preserved church. Originally built in the 10thcentury, it was rebuilt in the 12th and then “updated” in the 17th century. It is very impressive and certainly dominates the main first courtyard.

Going around the lane a bit further and you come to the incredible Cathedral of St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert.  This is the spiritual symbol of the state, building began in the 14th century, but took almost 600 years to complete (with the final touches being completed in 1929). The interior of the cathedral is equally impressive and contains the crypt where the kings were buried, and the crown jewels are housed. It was absolutely gorgeous on the inside (although we didn’t make our way through the entire cathedral). You are able to walk through the rest of the complex and the buildings throughout the complex. We headed out right around sunset and got to watch the sun set on the city, and then see the city start to come to life in the evening.

We checked into our Airbnb (which was a fun exercise) and then headed out to dinner at Restaurace U Houdků. This was a lovely local pub type restaurant and we had a lovely meal of various Czech delicacies. We made it an early night in preparation for the long day ahead.

Day 2:

Saturday was our walking day. I love to walk a city (especially one that is so easily walkable to see so much) and Prague was perfect for that. We woke early, stopped for a quick coffee, and then headed out to be tourists for the day. We started our stroll at the IMG_1969.jpgPrašná brána (Powder Tower). Dating back to the 15th century, this was the entrance that all the kings would use to enter The Old Town. It was a gunpowder store in the 18th century, today it serves as not only a viewing gallery to see over the city, but still is the entrance for a royal route to Prague Castle. It certainly was an impressive sight to see and is a good start to your morning/day out in Prague Old Town.

 

 

 

From there it is a quick stroll down the streets to reach Old Town Square. This main square holds not only the markets, but has been restored throughout the years. The Old Town square is circled by several prominent buildings, the first of which being the Church of Our Lady before Týn. This is easily one of the most impressive buildings you will see during your visit to Prague, aside from the Cathedral at the Castle. This particular church also contains the oldest organ in Prague, dating to the 17th century. The church itself dates back to the 14thcentury.

In the square itself there are several things to see before moving on in another direction. There are various steps on the ground itself marking where executions would take place and other little tidbits of what life was like. There is the Jan Hus Memorial in the central. You can walk off to the side a little bit and go to the St. Nicholas Church. This church was completed in the early 18th century and is absolutely incredible. When we went in they had the organ music playing and the grand chandelier was a sight to see. It not only serves as a church, but is also a classical music concert hall. Before leaving the square, do a quick look see at The Prague Astronomical Clock. It isn’t necessary to stick around for the performance (it’s really not anything to write home about0, but it’s definitely something to peak at before leaving the square.

From the square we walked the side streets up to Wenceslas square. It’s not a far walk and by walking we not only got to see a couple more markets, we also got to see a wide variety of the architecture of the city.

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Wenceslas square is at the heart of “New Town” and is full of shopping and commercial life. New Town was commissioned by Charles IV in the 14th century. New Town was intended to be the center of Prague and with this new square under construction Prague became the third largest city in Europe (at that time). While New Town may not be very new by age standards, it certainly is the heart of the modern shopping era. Wenceslas Square is set up as a boulevard or (as its original layout and time period would entail) a horse market. Wenceslas Square has served as a parade ground of sorts, seeing everything from celebrations to uprisings. The square backs up into the National Museum and the Opera House, as well as a statue of St. Wenceslas riding his horse.

From Wenceslas Square we decided to hop on the metro and head over to the Charles Bridge Area.

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Charles Bridge is the main pedestrian bridge used to cross from one side of the Vitava River to the other. Charles IV commissioned the bridge and even laid the first foundation stone of the bridge in 1357 (there is a marking for it). This was originally intended for tournaments, but has since evolved into the bridge it is now. It is adorned with a total of 75 statues throughout the bridge and is a great option to walk from Old Town to Lesser Town.

On the Old Town side of Charles Bridge, you enter under the Old Town Bridge Tower. This is an incredible tower that continued the path of royalty through the Old Town and up to The Castle. You can climb inside the tower and see opposite the tower and bridge. On the Lesser Town side there is the Lesser Town Bridge Tower. This was built in the 15th century and was modeled off of the Old Town Bridge Tower. The smaller tower that is connected is Judith’s Tower; the only remaining part of the original bridge crossing. You are also able to climb up inside the Lesser Town Bridge Tower and see opposite.

Once in Lesser Town we did a couple of stops, the first of which being a bookstore. Massive thanks to my friend Hannah (who happened to be in Prague at the same time we were), who enlightened me to the existence of Shakespeare and Sons. IMG_2288Shakespeare and Sons is a {big} little almost hole in the wall bookstore in a corner of Lesser Town. Situated near Kafka’s house and museum it is the perfect little stop. It has the used and new book atmosphere that I love, with book stacked high along the walls, piled on the floor and behind the cash register. I didn’t have nearly all the time I wanted to browse (thanks to two very active toddlers and one husband who couldn’t believe we were at a bookstore in a foreign country…again), but I did manage to snag a couple books. I got each book stamped with the bookseller’s mark, a reusable book bag, and a bookmark. Such a perfect little stop!

 

After our stop, we knew we needed a little breather from walking and exploring and a little chance to just relax and take it easy. We were right near the sight-seeing boat docks, so we decided to take a little boat tour of the river. Stay tuned for my full thoughts on this in my tips/recommendations, BUT it did what it intended- gave our boys a chance to rest and eat and us a chance to sit for a bit.

IMG_2407.jpgWe headed back to Old Town Square for the Christmas Tree Lighting and the official opening of the Prague Christmas Markets. More on this in the Prague Christmas Market post.

 

 

 

 

Morning Day 3

On our last morning in Prague we spent a little time in the Jewish Quarter (Josefov). The Jewish Quarter (originally the Jewish Ghetto) originates from around the 10th century, however it’s history really begins around the 13th century when the Jews were ordered to leave their homes behind wherever they were, and were banished to this Quarter. The first pogrom occurred Easter of 1389 and it has had a turbulent history since then. The quarter has gone through radical changes, with its people living at the whim of whomever was in charge at the time and at one point was overcrowded. There is a total of six synagogues in the Jewish Quarter, a Ceremonial Hall, and the Old Jewish Cemetery. Ironically enough, the Jewish Quarter was one of the few Jewish spots that survived World War 2 in the area as Hitler decided it could be a “Museum of an Extinct Race”. There is so much history to the Jewish Quarter, that I know I’ll be learning about everything for a long time to come.

We started with breakfast at this cute little café called Mansson The Danish Bakery. We munched on coffee’s, pastries, and meats before heading into the proper quarter.

We didn’t have a long time in the morning to see all of the synagogues and sights, but we tried to make the most of our time to see the absolute must see. We wandered the streets and admired the architecture of the Jewish Quarter before stopping into our first synagogue, Maisel Synagogue.

The Maisel Synagogue was originally built in the late 16th century and founded by its namesake, Mordechai Maisel. After a fire destroyed the original synagogue, the current synagogue dates back to the 19/20th century. This is an incredible synagogue to stop in and details out what life was like in the Jewish Quarter and a bit of the history around the early years of the Quarter. My personal favorite was hearing details about the book and scholarly life.

The second synagogue that we stopped in was the Pinkas Synagogue.

This was built, again, in the 16thcentury. It originally served as a private family oratory by the wealthy family that commissioned it, but later was adapted to add a women’s gallery and new décor for the Torah Ark. This synagogue was reconstructed and turned into a Memorial. The names of the victims of the Shoah are painted on the walls, arranged alphabetically by residence. It’s the oldest monument of its kind and bares 80,000 names on its walls. This was an incredibly moving memorial and absolutely heartbreaking to see. To have all these names laid out in front of you, all around you on the walls, it’s breathtaking.

Our final stop was the Old Jewish Cemetery, which can be accessed through either the Pinkas Synagogue or next to the Klausen Synagogue. The Old Jewish Cemetery is one of the oldest in the world, having been founded early in the 15th century. The Cemetery contains burials from before 1440 until 1787, when a decree came down prohibiting active burial grounds within inhabited areas of the city. There are around 12,000 tombstones, but even more graves as some of collapsed into the ground and others have been destroyed by the elements. Now, if you’re wondering how the dead are actually buried in this manner (with the tombstones being the way they are), don’t worry, we were too. The community actually would add new soil to the ground when they needed more room, so there are several layers of graves in the cemetery, one above the other. The gravestones became crowded as each site holds multiple graves. Both Rabbi Low and Mordecai Meisel, two big names who helped build the Quarter up, are buried here.

Words can’t even begin to describe this sight. It was incredible not only with the overcrowding of the tombstones and the idea of how old the graves were and how many people were actually there, but just the sheer size. At some points it seemed never ending. The amount of history in this relatively small area of Prague is incredible to think of.

We wanted to see both the Old-New Synagogue (the oldest preserved synagogue in Central Europe) and the Spanish Synagogue (the most beautiful in Europe), but both were not open when we were there.

And that ended our short little weekend in Prague! We are definitely making plans to go back and see more of the city, and have already added a couple of spots to our must-see list. Have you been to Prague? What was your favorite spot? If you haven’t, what would you like to go see the most?

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – An Overnight Trip

It is probably one of the most frequently recommended stops in our area of Germany (and really Germany as a whole) and we finally got to experience the charm of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in the middle of November.

Let’s start with a little history of the town. Rothenburg ob der Tauber (I’ll be shortening this down to Rothenburg o.d.T, but you want to be sure you are indicating the full city name in order to find it on a map as there are several different Rothenburg’s and Rothenberg’s in the country) dates it’s history back to the Celts around the 1st century. However, most of what you will find in Rothenburg o.d.T today dates back to around the 18th century (more on that in a minute- it’s a fun legend!). Around the 13th century Rothenburg o.d.T was granted Free Imperial City status, which allowed the city to charge a toll on all those who passed through the city itself. This allowed the city to become quite prosperous and grow rapidly as Rothenburg o.d.T. is pretty well located for pilgrims and travelers. At one-point Rothenburg o.d.T. was one of the larger cities in the country.

The downfall of Rothenburg o.d.T. came during the Thirty Years War (to narrow that down, we are looking at 1631). The walled city was taken under siege by the Protestant County of Tilly. They quickly fell and the Count of Tilly’s troops quickly gained access to the city. Town legend says that when the Count demanded the councilmen’s deaths and the city burned to the ground, the councilmen made a bargain- if one of the councilmen could drink 3 ¼ liters of wine in one go, Tilly would spare them all. The mayor succeeded in doing this and the Count’s men withdrew from the city that winter. At this point, the city was left nearly empty and when the bubonic plague came in 1634 it wiped out most of the remaining townsfolk. That is why Rothenburg o.d.T. remains in the state it is.

Rothenburg o.d.T. played quite a role during the Nazi era both being given the title “ The epitome of the German Hometown” and being listed as a regular day retreat for members of the Kraft durch Freude (a Nazi organization). Rothenburg expelled all of its Jews in the late 1930’s and became a “poster town” for what Hitler and the Nazi party wanted Germany to look like. Rothenburg survived untouched for the majority of World War Two, until the last couple of weeks when Allied Bombers dropped bombs on the town destroying a total of 321 buildings and killing 37 people. Hitler had ordered all of his troops to continue to fight to the end, but the troops at Rothenburg decided to defy the order, meeting with American Soldiers in an attempt to save what was not already destroyed in the town.

Rothenburg o.d.T. has played a lot of roles in the film and book industry, being the inspiration for the town of Pinocchio, was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, small bits in Harry Potter, as well as many more. Rothenburg o.d.T. is also widely known for its Christmas spirit and Christmas Markets. This past trip was a little too early to attend the market, BUT we will be heading back for the market, so stay tuned for that upcoming post. They were getting everything prepped, putting up the shop decorations and stalls, as well as Christmas Tree’s all around.

And that concludes today’s history lesson ha-ha. (Information sourced from rothenburg.de and the town itself) I didn’t mean to include so much, but it is just incredibly fascinating to look at all of the history of the places that we are visiting. It’s not only so vast, but full of so much turmoil. I hope that you enjoy getting to hear not only about our trips, but also about the history that we are learning during our trips.

Now on to what we actually did during our 24 hours there. We started off by walking the wall.

You are able to walk the entire wall of Rothenburg and I highly recommend that you do. It gives you not only a unique view into the city, but also a unique view into history and what it would have been like to live/man the walls during the days. It’s narrow stairs and walkways are great too, although a struggle if you have any disabilities or young children. It is still entirely possible to walk them with young children, but tread carefully. We did not walk the full length of the wall, just about a quarter of it and then we descended into the city streets.

We spent most of our time strolling along the different streets, stopping and shopping at times, taking pictures, and just reviling in the ambiance that is a quaint German town.We wandered through the Western Gate to stroll the gardens and the lower part of the outer wall outside the city walls.

The kids loved being able to just run around the walls and little side streets as well as see all of the older buildings.

We did stop at the famous Old Forge (Gerlachschmiede) and see the famous half-timbered half between the Rödertor and Galgentortowers. This is actually a restored version as the original was on the buildings destroyed in World War 2.

We stopped for a quick cup of tea and cappuccino at the café right off the Marktplatz. No matter where you sit in this small little café, you will have a great view of the town square and it’s the perfect little mid-afternoon stop. If you do stop here, try out the truffles as they were delicious!

We ended our day with the Night Watchmen Tour.

This tour is given twice a night (times vary due to time of year), one in English and one in German. In the olden days, at night the town was guarded by a Night Watchmen. This watchman was intended to keep the peace and watch for trouble. Without any real training or experience, they walked the streets with a horn in hand to blow should trouble arise. These days the Night Watchmen leads a tour of the city at dark with his lantern, telling stories and the history of the town. We learned quite a bit about the town as well as about Germany. A definite highlight of our time there!

We stayed the night in a hotel right off the marketplatz called Gasthof Griefen which was nice and quaint. We had both dinner and breakfast in their restaurant and the house itself is beautifully done.

What I would recommend for a trip to Rothenburg o.d.T. (as well as a couple tips). Start by parking right outside the city walls. If you are just planning a day trip, then you can park outside the wall with a day parking ticket (Tages Ticket), that costs about €5.50. There are several different parking lots outside the city of varying sizes and various entrances to the city. Each entrance has stairs to climb to get up the wall as well, so you really cannot go wrong with parking outside the city. There is parking inside the city as well, though depending on the day that you go there may or may not be any spaces available. It’s also not very easy, realistically speaking, to driving within the city walls, so parking right outside is your best option.

Once you’ve got the parking settled, I would start by walking the upper length of the wall. You can walk most of the wall this way, then descend and walk the lower ramparts. If you’ve had enough after walking the upper level, then head towards the cobblestone lined streets of the main town. Again, you can’t really go wrong as to where you start as you will see everything by the time you have finished. I personally would start at the central marktplatz with the Rathaus and Astronomical Clock. From there, wander the various streets, see the two churches, and head out the Western Town Gate to see the gardens and various overlooks. I believe you can walk all the way down to the Tauber river from this spot, which is a pretty nice hike down. There are also several museums to visit that detail the history of the justice system, a Christmas museum, a puppet museum, and a craft house that shows the everyday life of the craftsmen and the families that lived there. There are also two towers that you can climb to get the scenic views of the city (the Roedertor Tower does charge for the overlook).

Here comes the make or break part. I would highly recommend sticking around for the Night Watchmen Tour. For us, that meant staying overnight, but it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that. The English tour starts at 8PM and goes for about an hour. The watchman is not only very well informed, he also throws in some funny jokes and tells history in a very captivating way. I waffled on whether or not we really needed to do this tour and in the end, I am very glad that we stayed to do it. By staying till 8, we also got to see the Meistertrunk scene from the astronomical clock that depicts the famous town legend of drinking the wine to save the town (even if you don’t do the Night Watchmen Tour I would still recommend at least staying to see the clock). It’s the perfect way to end the day in Rothenburg o.d.T..

And there you have it! Our 24 hours in Rothenburg o.d.T. Have you been? Do you want to visit? Stay tuned for our Christmas Market visit 🙂

Things You Should Do and Tips for: Austria (Salzburg and Berchtesgaden, Germany)

We just recently spent a weekend away in Austria, which you can read about HERE, and it is a place that I would recommend that everyone and anyone should visit. It has a wide variety of things to offer for any taste and it is absolutely beautiful. I don’t have a lot of “tips” as some of the things we wanted to do, we couldn’t, but I figured I would share what I did learn with you.

Recommendations:

In Berchtesgaden there are two spots to visit. The first is Eagle’s Nest which we did not get to go to. I can’t say much more other than keep an eye on the weather and go during the July/August time period. There were still weather issues when we visited. The second spot is the Berchtesgaden Salt Mines. I would highly recommend this place because not only does it make the whole concept of a Salt Mine interesting and fun. It combines light shows with music, rides, and costumes. It is great for any age (especially the kiddos).

In Salzburg there is so much…

I highly recommend the Fortress, Hohensalzburg Fortress, at the top of the hill. Not only is the fortress itself pretty cool, but the view from atop the tower can’t be beat. If you are worried about the climb to get to the top, you are able to take a funicular up (and down). The base of the funicular is located near Salzburg Cathedral and is a good “jumping off” point for everything else as well.

Speaking of Salzburg Cathedral, I would highly recommend a stop in here. It is absolutely stunning inside and just take in the atmosphere and reverence. You can walk through the halls and head down to the crypt to complete your viewing of the Cathedral.

I would also recommend checking out one (or both if you can) of Mozart’s homes. We chose the birthplace, but you can easily do both if you would like to. The birthplace dealt with his birth, early childhood, and some of his composing as well as bits about his family. The residence deals with the bulk of his composing, everyday life in adulthood and has most of his instruments from later life.

On the Sound of Music tours, I personally chose not to do that. The tours that we were finding were close to 4-5 hours (which can be lengthy with children and a husband who isn’t super interested), on the more expensive side of things, and honestly I think you can cover the spots that you want to see pretty well on your own. I picked out a couple of spots that related to the story or the characters and went to those rather than doing a full tour.

Tips:

Tip #1: A Vignette.To drive in Austria you must have a vignette affixed to your car. You can purchase these in gas stations, at the border, or online (each has different date requirements and options), but if you do not it is a pretty hefty fine. They are inexpensive and easy to buy. Driving in Austria is really not any different than driving anywhere else in Europe (exception being the UK)  and even though we made use of the public transportation, we still really enjoyed having our car as well.

Tip #2: Getting registered.I don’t know if this was done this way simply because of where we were staying, or if it is a country wide thing, but we had to be registered by the AirBnB owner while we were staying there and pay a slight tax. By doing this though, we got a tourist “welcome” card of sorts which gave us a discount on some museums as well as free use of the public transportation (trains and buses).

Tip #3: Public Transportation.Seriously the public transportation in Europe is top notch and I really think you should make use of it whenever you can. It is just so easy to hop on a train, go to a city, not have to worry about parking, traffic, or anything with your car, and then hop a train to go home when you are done. The boys love riding the “choo-choo’s” and we’ve just really adapted to them (not that we really had to).

I don’t really have any other specific tips, but as always I recommend looking around on AirBnB for your accommodation. Not only can they be cheaper than a conventional hotel, but you can get some pretty stunning spots. This time we stayed in the mountains without anyone really near us. It was such a relaxing spot and watching the sunrise/sunset, hearing the birds chirping, and the trees swaying brought a whole new meaning to being in the Alps.

 

Do you have any tips or recommendations for a trip to Salzburg/Berchtesgaden?

Amsterdam – A Long Weekend

Good morning! I’ve got another long weekend travel post for you today of one of my favorite vacation spots that we’ve been so far. We just recently spent a long weekend in The Netherlands and it was one of the most beautiful trips that we have taken. Fun fact: Holland is the informal name for The Netherlands and you hear the residents refer to it both ways. I am going to handle this trip the same way I did with our Berlin weekend, today’s post will breakdown everything that we did and I will do a separate post with all of my tips/recommendations! So, without further ado, let’s talk about our weekend!

I want to start by saying that we got incredibly lucky with the weather being as amazing as it was. The temperatures were in the 70’s and everyday was a clear sky. We couldn’t have asked for anything better!

Our trip started off a little rough with the drive over to our final location being a bit longer than anticipated. It was Easter weekend, and that meant cars on the road, but we also had a couple of situations come up for the kids as well. HOWEVER, even with the problems, the drive was absolutely beautiful and we got a chance to see the Tulip Fields on our drive in. It was nice to get a litte view of what we were in for. To say that we were happy/relieved/ready to be done when we arrived at our final location was putting it mildly. With the drive out of the way, we were free to explore the area.

We had decided that we did not want to stay in Amsterdam. Not only is the cost very expensive, but the traffic, population count, and 24 hr atmosphere is quite a lot to take in. We wanted something a little bit slower for our weekend. We picked out a little AirBnB in a little town called Noordwijkaan Zee. This is a beach town that is absolutely perfect in location being about 30-45 minutes by train from Amsterdam and about 15 minutes by car from the Tulip Gardens we planned to visit, AS WELL AS being about a 10 minute walk from the beach.

We spent our first late afternoon/evening walking through the town and the beachfront. I am not a big beach person, but I really enjoyed the time that we did spend on the beach. It was not very crowded and was very well…maintained (by this I mean there wasn’t any trash, the people were very nice, etc.). We had a dinner outdoors at ‘T Elfde Gebod and our food was delicious. For me, I chose a sandwich of Salmon, Avocado, Tomato, Pine Nuts, and Dressing on a Sesame Seed Bun. What a way to kick off our weekend!

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We had already decided to spend one day in Amsterdam and to try and do as much as we could within the city in that time frame. For me, I mostly just wanted to walk throughout the city and if something looked interesting, we would pop in. There were a couple of museums, and The Anne Frank House, that I wanted to visit, but we didn’t get to. There was also a food spot that I wanted to try, but had to pass as well. Those are things I will hold on to for another trip in the future.

Even though we didn’t get to cross everything off our list, we did end up doing quite a bit. We started out in a boat on the canal…

The boat tour was one thing that our oldest son requested (he’s 3…as soon as he saw the canal boats he asked right away) and we actually really enjoyed it. Not only is it a way to go along the actual canals, we received a fair amount of information about the history of Amsterdam and the current information as the city is now. It gave us a really good overview of Amsterdam, as well as let us see some sights without fighting the crowds (because Amsterdam is crowded). IMG_8536After the Boat tour we decided to grab a quick bite to eat (it was already lunchtime) and let the boys eat their snacks as well. We stopped at Bistro Berlage where we enjoyed sandwiches and coffee before heading out.

The afternoon we decided to just walk through the city, hitting up the spots that we wanted to at least see and then experience everything thing else. Once you get out of the “immediate” area of Amsterdam, aka the train station hub, the crowds start to thin out ever so slightly and while you are still fighting a sea of people and bikes, it isn’t as bad. We started out at The Red Light District and worked our way away from there. I will say, The Red Light District isn’t as…mind blowing as many people make it out to be. Yes, it is the brothel area. Yes, there are women in windows attracting passerby’s and selling themselves. BUT, it is not as seedy or as wild as it is put out to be. These are just people going about their business, doing what they do. Once we walked through there, we headed back in the direction of Dam Square and the Royal Palace. 5205528369492211466_IMG_1875Dam Square is their central town square and it was packed full of people. There was some sort of a party/music/event going on and we only got to slightly see the full square before having to hurry along.

Right off of the square is the Royal Palace. The Netherlands does have a monarchy and the monarch is part of the government. The Royal Palace has rooms that are open to the public as long as there is not an event coinciding with your visit. It is one of three palace’s in The Netherlands, and while it isn’t used as a residence, it still has a very prominent role in both history and present day. It started as a Town Hall and was later turned in to a Royal Palace. It was very interesting to see the inside of the palace itself and we were able to see several different rooms, bedrooms, and the balcony. The audio tour not only gives the current relevance of the room, but also gives a historical perspective. Most of the palace had close ties in design to Bonaparte, which was interesting. It was a really beautiful interior, with the  Central Hall taking the cake of beautiful interior.

We finished our day by walking over to the exterior of the Anne Frank House (we couldn’t get tickets to the tour, which I will touch on in my Tips/Tricks/Recommendations post) and then walking along the various canal streets as we headed back to the train station. Even though we couldn’t go inside the Anne Frank House, it was still impactful to see the exterior and put a place to something that we have all heard about. Our day ended with a train ride home and dinner in a town called Leiden at Oudt Leyden. It was a truly wonderful day.

Easter Sunday dawned the prettiest of the four days of our weekend. Lucky for us as Easter Sunday was our day to spend with the flowers. One of the things The Netherlands is known for is their Tulips. If you do a google search you will see aerial and ground shots of just fields and fields of tulips. It is a sight to see just in that search, let alone in person. One of the biggest reasons (in fact the main reason) we decided to The Netherlands at this time was because it was supposed to be the peak weekend for the blooms. There are several different ways to see the Tulips, a flower garden, biking through the fields, or driving along the road. -5581938934245434523_IMG_2009We decided to go to the Keukenhof gardens in Lisse. This is one of the more popular and well known spots (aside from Amsterdam) in The Netherlands. Let me tell you, if you can make it here, do it. It will not be a disappointment and is well worth the time and price. This year was it’s 70thyear of exhibitions and this year boasted 7 million flower bulbs. There is something to be said for the sheer beauty of the garden as you walk through not only a variety of colors, but a variety of tulips. There were tulips I didn’t even know existed on display! Have no fear, it is not only Tulips (although that is the main flower), they also have hyacinth and other flowers on display. We spent a few hours just walking through the center stopping to see different flowers and to walk across the water as well.

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Every year they have a theme to the main exhibit and this year’s was a really fun one, Flower Power. The main floral part of that exhibition had a women in flowers with the headband, peace sign, flower, and a butterfly.  The main exhibition pavilion and outdoor display touched on that 60/70’s hippie free love feeling.

The best part about Keukenhof is that not only do you get the best of the growers fields, but you can also see just plain tulip fields, a full windmill, a petting zoo and playground for kids, and 3 pavillions of floral exhibitions. There is something for everyone involved! Which means that even my husband enjoyed walking through the different plots and gardens within the center. It was a wonderful few hours spent soaking up sun, flowers, and the sheer beauty that is The Netherlands.

We ended our day (and our weekend), back on the beach. This time we decided to do a long walk with both boys and dip our toys in the water and sand.

The boys struggled with the sand at the beginning, but quickly started to enjoy running along the beach. Andrew was especially captivated by the waves from the water, while Colton wanted nothing to do with the water. Either way, they both really enjoyed soaking up the sun in the afternoon after short little naps and we enjoyed walking along the water (and soaking up the sun). We had one last delicious dinner at Malegij’s, which was delicious (as was all the rest of the food that we ate this weekend) and headed back to the cottage to pack and sleep.

And with that, our time in The Netherlands had come to an end! While we didn’t do AS MUCH as we wanted, we still managed to hit every spot that we really wanted to and had the best time exploring a new area. The weather was incredible and everywhere we looked was just so incredibly beautiful. The people were so welcoming and we enjoyed every minute we had there.

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I hope that you enjoyed seeing just a small glimpse into The Netherlands through our eyes.  My tips/tricks/recommendations will be up in about a week or so.

 

 

 

March In Travel

Good morning! We have reached the end of March, say what?!, and it is time to recap our travel over the past Month! It has been a month of exploration for us, both “close to home” and a long weekend away. All of it exiting and full of new adventures!

The first weekend we ventured out to a semi nearby town called Amberg. I think that at this time this is probably my favorite city that is near us. It is just so quaint and has the perfect combinations of olde world and modern, crowded but still quiet with cobblestone lined streets and little shops and bakeries. There is so much to just explore by walking through the streets and a wide variety of shops to be found. We spent a lovely day here.

The next weekend we decided to stick to somewhere that we already ventured to for two reasons: 1) We needed to pick up some things and knew that it had the stores we needed and 2) It gave us a chance to experience the train system. The train system is really user friendly here and is fairly straightforward when you are making those easy commuter trips. We boarded and road for about 30-40 minutes in to Regensburg. Didn’t have to worry about finding parking, paying for parking, or navigating in and out of the city. Once we were done with our shopping and exploring (because we did still head over to a couple spots we hadn’t been to yet) we simply boarded the train back home.

The third weekend in March (St. Patricks Day weekend), we headed to Berlin for the weekend! I’ve already done a whole post breaking our trip down to inredible detail, chock full of pictures that you can read HERE and I’ll be do a recommendation/tips post in the next couple weeks for Berlin. I won’t touch on it too much, but I really loved this trip. It was a last minute decision and whirlwind 72 hours, but it was so much FUN. I think this is the way to travel and I can’t wait to do more of it in the coming years.

This past weekend we made a very important, but very difficult visit to Dachau Concentration Camp. I am not going to go into too much of it here as I have a full blog post prepared to post about it, but I’ll just say this-No words. There are no words.

We do have plans for the upcoming weekend, but I don’t know how they will all end up working out. Whatever we do end up doing I will share over on IG/Facebook, and will try to remember to include in my April Travel Wrap Up.