A Close to Home Autumnal Weekend

We have had another one of those weekends recently where we’ve done a couple different things, each important, but not enough to warrant individual blog posts (although this one is probably pushing it). I figured I would once again, consolidate into one “long weekend” post. This is a bit longer than I would have liked, so grab a cuppa something good and snuggle in for a read.

The second weekend in October we got the chance to have a long weekend together. My husband had both Friday and Monday off of work (due to Columbus Day), but we didn’t really want to do a lot of traveling. Look, traveling is tiring and at some point you’ve got to take a little rest. I’ve mentioned this previously and have a full blog post coming up talking about it, but we decided that it was really in all of our best interests to stay close to home. We had actually originally planned a relaxing weekend, curling up at home, handling some things and just chilling.

Apparently the weather decided differently for us.

When Sunday morning hit and we were supposed to see 70 degree’s, sunshine, and not a cloud in site we made a last-minute decision to take a little trip to the Nuremberg Zoo. I’ve been wanting to go as the kids love the zoo and it’s an excellent learning opportunity for them. We also love seeing the wide variety of animals, as well as the workout that comes with walking an entire zoo with two toddlers who like to be carried off and on. We booked train tickets as that is a feasible option, a shorter train ride (about an hour for us) works best with the boys and no parking/navigation worries. The zoo itself is quite large (we saw everything there was to see and ended up walking about 6 miles), with a spacious layout. I do tend to worry sometimes about zoo’s, but I found the animals to be well cared for and have more than enough room/things to do. For the most part they were quite active, which pleased the boys to no end.

We did end up stopping for lunch within the zoo and found several things. I want to interject to say that this is the first time that we’ve eaten at a European Zoo (this is only the second we’ve been to; Berlin was the first) and I was incredibly impressed to say the least. Here’s the thing, you can order “normal” food. There isn’t pizza and hotdogs, we got Schnitzel Sandwiches and Chicken Cordon Blue. The food was served on proper plates and if you wanted to order a coffee or beer? Well you could and it would be served with the proper coffee cup and beer glass. Everywhere you could sit was clean and well maintained and people bussed their own tables when they were done. There wasn’t any trash overflowing, no massive gathering or anything. It was really refreshing and honestly, we would probably take a trip back to this zoo (it’s the closest to us) and spend another day here.

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Monday morning, we did the one thing that we had planned for all along, a river “cruise” down the Donau River to Weltenburg Abbey. This was something that we’ve been wanting to do for a while, but we’ve been waiting for the weather to cool and the leaves to turn before doing it. And boy, we picked the PERFECT time to do it. The leaves were at the height of the coloring, right before they all truly start to fall off and in this area there is just enough of the year-round green to make the reds/oranges/yellows to really pop.

So, a little history first. Weltenburg Abbey was founded in 600 by two monks and is the oldest monastic settlement in Bavaria. The church was originally built in the early 1700’s but went through a period of being disbanded. King Ludwig reestablished the monastery and the abbey has been in use sine 1913. One of the neat things about this Abbey is that it has a brewery as well, Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei. It is one of the oldest monastic breweries, citing 1050 as the opening/starting date. It’s Dunkel beer has won several awards for being the best in the world, and there is a restaurant right in the Abbey courtyard where you can eat and drink the local dishes.

We took the first available cruise time, 9:30 AM. This provided us not only a relatively empty boat (seriously the second boat ride we saw come through was packed), but it afforded us the chance to see the sun peak over the hills and see the river under the soft dawn light (even though it was hours after daybreak). It was absolutely gorgeous. There are several sights to see throughout the cruise, as they talk about the history of the area. This area has ties to Napoleon and his reign, including a story about his suitcase being left behind. There are also quite a few folk lore style tales about river witches turning pretty maidens to stone, and three rock brothers fighting, then falling into the river. It is so much fun to hear about all the folklore and tales of the region and we really enjoyed that aspect. Plus, the fact that the area is gorgeous and the trip down the river was a nice smooth 40-minute boat ride.

Once we arrived at the abbey we headed in to see the museum, which contains relics from the abbey as well as a little kid’s room with hands on activities. You do have to pay for both the cruise down to the abbey and entrance to the little museum. The museum is entirely in Germany, although the very nice greeter told us you can request the movie to be played in English and they will try to accommodate. From there we headed into the church, which was easily one of the most gorgeous churches we have ever been in. It was absolutely incredible, both in overall looks and the minute details. The whole region that encompasses the abbey is able to be converted into one big hike and is absolutely gorgeous. We simply chose to hike up the smaller hill and get an overarching view into the abbey.

Since the abbey is still an active church, you are able to see the church being used by the monks at their prayer times.

IMG_0983.jpgWe then settled in for a little bite to eat and a beer a piece. I went with a lighter beer and Robert chose the Dunkel. Both were delicious. It was a really pleasant atmosphere, sitting right in the courtyard, with the sun shining and the leaves gently blowing in the breeze. Shortly after lunch we took the ferry back to Kelheim. We had one more stop still to make on this beautiful Monday.

Our final stop of the weekend was to visit Liberation Hall.

Liberation Hall was commission by King Ludwig as part of a “group” of several monuments. This particular one was intended as a memorial to victory against Napoleon. It is quite the masterpiece. On the exterior are 18 statues that are supposed to represent the various tribes of Germany (the number is also significant due to the date of the victory). The statues on the inside are the goddesses of victory holding hands for a ceremonial dance. Similarly, to Walhalla, you are able to walk around the exterior free of charge, but there is a cost to get inside. Unlike Walhalla, there is much more to the interior than meets the eyes.

By going inside you are able to not only go through the floor gallery, but you are able to go to the second gallery (same level as the statues), climb to two different “look out” points (one just below the dome, and one just below that), and then see the second “level” gallery. It was incredible and the climb to the top was definitely worth it for these views.

And that was our “close to home” weekend. Each of these places were well within a quick travel day (an hour or less) and are just beautiful spots. We would definitely re visit all three of these spots and I’d like to explore Kelheim a little more. I hope you enjoyed our weekend and seeing the sites through our eyes.

Schloss Lichtenstein – A Day Trip

The final castle we went to to round out our weekend away was Schloss Lichtenstein. One of the more popular and breathtaking castles, this one did not disappoint in any way. We even had the perfect weather to set the scene- fog all through the valley, swirling amongst the rockface where the castle comes out. Talk about perfection!

The original site (premodern day castle) dates back to 1100, although the structure that exists now does not hold much in common with the house that existed back then. Originally owned by ministerial it has passed many hands, although the one thing they all have in common is that the castle was frequently under attack. In the early early 1800’s (think 1802), after being in disrepair, the castle was dismantled, and a hunting lodge was erected in its place. This then fell into disrepair as well. Eventually the Duke Wilhelm von Urach purchased the estate and decided to turn it into a medieval castle that he could live in. He was very much inspired by the book Lichtenstein (Wilhelm Hauff- I now kind of want to read it out of curiosity) and the castle was able to be lived in in 1842 (with it becoming the official residence in 1869). This particular sustained damage during World War 2, of which you can see while on a tour inside, but this damage was repaired immediately after the war concluded. It is still currently in use as a part time/temporary residence.

Lichtenstein is one of the more popular castles’ in Germany due to its incredibly dramatic location. Set on the top of a rocky embankment looking precariously balanced, it gives any visitor a breathtaking look.

You have two options when visiting Lichtenstein, just walk the castle grounds or get a full tour of the interior. Each has a cost (although a difference of about 6 Euro) and honestly, if you’re already at the grounds, you might as well head inside too. The tour is given entirely in German, although they do give a pamphlet that has the English Translation and you see a fair amount of rooms that depict both the Hunting Lodge AND the actual castle life. There is still one spot where you can see the damage that was done during WW2, a bullet hole in a shattered mirror and that was pretty cool to see as most castles have either been repaired or were not affected during the war.

I think this was the perfect castle to round out our trip as it isn’t a super long tour or visit, but is still an incredible stop. I would definitely say you should go and visit Lichtenstein Castle, but know that it isn’t as big or as grandiose as some of the other castles you will see in Germany.

Tübingen – A Day Trip

On our weekend away we had a free day in between the castle’s we had planned on seeing. We decided to spend this free Saturday in nearby (to where we were staying) Tübingen. Tübingen is a university town in Baden- Württemberg that is full of old-world charm. My favorite bits happen to be what it’s known for: cobblestone streets (full crooked, tight, bumpy cobblestone) and the traditional timber homes that line the streets.

Tübingen has a very long history (dating back to the 6thor 7thcentury), although the first time there is any official notice of the town involves the town’s castle: Hohentübingen (this is Germany after all – and everything involves castles). Tübingen formally became a city in the 1200’s and “shortly” after that (about 30 years) a monastery was established by the Pope. In the 1400’s the Collegiate church was built AND the Eberhard Karls University was founded. This particular university is one of the oldest universities in Central Europe. The university continues to make a name for itself as one of the biggest universities in Germany and the biggest source of income for the city’s residents. Tübingen has also been a spot for quite the political history being involved in The Thirty Years War, Kristallnacht during WW2, being a center of the German Student Movement, being a part of Protests of 1968, and having student ties to a terrorist group (The Rote Armee Fraktion).

A quick fun fact for you: Tübingen’s Altstadte is one of the few completely intact Altstadte’s in Germany. It was not destroyed during WW2, which allows a visitor to get a real glimpse into what the city would have looked like throughout the years.

We visited Tübingen on a grey rainy day, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We started out our day walking through the Market Square (Marktplatz). This market square also holds the Town Hall (Rathaus). The day that we went happened to be the day they were holding their Regional Market, so we got to sample a wide variety of goods, including a home made from scratch fresh pizza and Birnensecco ( a locally made pear prosecco). Both were delicious. We also got to peak around the stalls for local handcrafted goods including floral, produce, clothes/crochet/knitted goods, and different salami and cheese products. It was a fun little start to our day (and provided us lunch). This to me was just the European/German experience.

From the market square we wandered up to Hohentübingen to peak around the castle.

By best guesses the castle was originally marked in the 11thcentury, but was completely demolished and rebuilt in the 1500’s. In current day the castle holds the Museum Alte Kulturen, which was opened in 1997 to the public. There is also a section in the castle covering the advances that were made in the realm of sciences- this castle held one of the first biochemical lab worldwide, and talks about DNA. The rooms cover both modern-day sciences, as well as artifacts and the discoveries made at this particular location.

4FF8A7E4-9755-4D36-A77A-DF1F69F12EB0.JPGFrom the castle we wandered back down the street to stop once again at the market to pick up some food/drink and take a little break. Once refreshed (see above for what we ate) we headed over the St. George’s Collegiate Church (also referred to as Stiftskirche).

Dating back to the 15thCentury, this is one hell of a church. Fun fact: this church was one of the first to convert to Martin Luther’s Protestantism, although it still has several Roman Catholic features. We wandered through the main church, then paid a slight fee to head up the church tower. In this particular church, as long as the bells aren’t actively ringing, you are able to walk up the numerous stair steps to get an “eagle eye” view from the tower.

Not only is that an incredible view, but you get to see how the bells actually work from the bells themselves, the weights at the bottom, and the gears that make them ring. Looking at the bells it is actually incredible to think that a long time ago, people actually rang the bells themselves without the benefit of the gears.

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The view from the top really can’t be beat as you get a great 360 view of Tübingen and beyond. You can see the Marktplatz, the Altstadt, the river, the Schloss and so much more. It was worth the very slight fee to pay to be able to see the red roofs, the people milling about, walking along the cobblestone. We made it down the stairs just in time to hear the bells sing in the afternoon. They played beautifully and rang through the entire city.

Finally, we headed down to the Necker River. Crossing the bridge, you can get a view of the brightly colored historic homes and businesses, along with Holderlin’s Tower.

Holderlin’s Tower was the home to poet Frederich Holderlin and is a popular museum and destination. We took a little stroll on part of the Neckar Island (Neckarinsel). On the day that we went they were having their Rubber Duck Race (which we missed by about 30 minutes), so the little Island was packed with various exciting activities.

And with that final stroll our day in Tübingen came to an end! I think this little town might top my list of favorite towns in Germany so far. It is very close with Fussen (which I loved) and may edge it out of that top spot.

I hope you enjoyed seeing Tübingen though our eyes! Honestly, I hadn’t really heard too much about this town until we were in the area, but I feel like it should be on a travel list if you are wanting that German town experience.

 

Burg Hohenzollern – A Day Trip

Full disclaimer- this was supposed to be one post on our full weekend away, HOWEVER I just had so much I wanted to share about each place we visited that I just couldn’t justify having yall read one super long post. Instead, I am going to break this up into three posts over the next couple of weeks covering each outing we did. We only had 3 days over the weekend, so we decided to knock out a couple of the castles that we’ve been wanting to check out. There are two castles that are within an hour (or so) of each other, so we decided to book an Airbnb somewhat in between the two and just go from there.

So, Friday morning we headed out and over to Burg Hohenzollern.

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Hohenzollern is possibly one of the most popular, but quietly popular castles in the region. It sits high on top of the hill, with views around all sides. It has quite the history of owners and destruction/reconstruction. To start with, Hohenzollern is the ancestral seat of the Prussian Royal House and references to this spot date back to the 1000’s. The house was reconstructed in the 1400’s to make it bigger and more formidable. It became a fortress, but after the war turned into ruins. In the 1800’s is was reconstructed and became the castle that we see today. It is heralded as “one of the most imposing Castle complexes in a neo-Gothic style” (via the website: https://burg-hohenzollern.com/castle-history.html).

Hohenzollern was very well worth the drive. Incredible from the moment you lay your eyes on it driving into the region, it definitely gives off all the castle on a hill vibes. We parked on the property and did a short hike to get to the entrance. There are two hike options, one where you can park at a lower level and hike through (this is the free parking I believe) or the one that we did, a shorter hike with paid parking (2 Euro for a car for parking). You are also able to take a shuttle bus from the paid parking area to the castle itself (the cost varies depending on what ride option you choose and how many are in your party). The hike is actually quite pretty, but steep and quite a few stairs.

This particular castle is one with two entrance areas. There are two large gates, one to simply “get into the property” and the second to get into the main courtyard. Before you pass the second gate you are treated to an interior garden lining the round walls, as well as some stunning views from the first lookout. This area is lined with various paths and the views of the town and valley below are stunning. You can walk all along the exterior to see the 360 views, but if you head inside and follow the tour, you will get this chance anyways.

When we went, there was a display at the second gate to see all of the coocoo clocks from area makers (this castle is quite near the Black Forest area- which is known for its coocoo clocks and woodworking). There are also festivals at different times of the year (A spring festival, Mother’s Day event, several performances/open air cinema days, an Autumn festival mid-October and then a Christmas Market in December).

IMG_9935.jpgAfter the second gate, you are able to look right into the heart of the castle with the central courtyard. This particular courtyard is one of my favorites, just due to the look and views of it. I love the bench, the ivy, the brick. On your right is the chapel and church with stained glass windows dating back to the 1300’s. Then you see the “main event”, the castle itself.

There are two options to see the castle, a guided tour or a “casual stroll”. The only real difference between the two is what you would assume, the guided tour gives you intimate details on the history of the castle and family, while the casual stroll only allows you in the castle. They do have a brochure that details out the information of the castle and its rooms if you want a little bit of both. Typically, the guided tour is given in German, but they do offer other languages on certain days and times.

We did the casual stroll and I don’t feel like we missed much by doing that. It allowed us to meander through the rooms how we wanted, and I felt like I got the chance to actually look around (although that might also be because I wasn’t spending the whole time trying to shush a toddler during a presentation). We saw several rooms, each more incredible than the last (my favorite was the Count’s Hall and The Blue Room). In order to preserve the interior, you are not allowed to take photos and you must wear the slippers they provide.

In addition to the interior rooms of the castle, you are also able to see the cellar, which has all the silver stores, and the casemates. These spots have their own special history and charm to them, and once finished you climb the steps to the outer embankment. This stroll gives you a chance to see just about everything the castle has to offer. I do want to note that there is also a café to eat at and a gift shop to get a little souvenir.

IMG_9992.jpgOverall Hohenzollern is 100% worth the trip and I think it should definitely go on your list of castles to see if you get the chance. We loved our time there and the views are quite gorgeous. You can definitely make this a good mid drive stop (as you only need a couple hours tops to visit and explore) or combine it with a couple other stops in the area as we did.

Oktoberfest 2019

It’s the event of the year, the event that everyone talks about, the event everyone mentions when talking about Germany. It’s Oktoberfest. This past week we got the chance to go to Oktoberfest and today I am going to share what that experience was like, some tips if you want to attend, as well as a little history of the festival.

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Oktoberfest originated in 1810 as a wedding celebration for Ludwig I (Crown Prince, later King) and Therese (Princess of Saxony- Hildburghausen). The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities of the wedding reception held in front of the city gates. It has since evolved into the festival you see today. From horse racing being the exciting event, to agricultural shows, amusement rides and carnival games. From Beer stands to beer tents. Fun fact: Oktoberfest has only been canceled 24 times in the 209 years it’s been around (these were only due to illness outbreaks and war).

A couple more fun facts about this year’s Oktoberfest (from the Oktoberfest website)…

There was a total of 17 beer tents, the largest tent being Hofbräu at 9,991 seats. The beer that is served comes from the six major breweries in Munich (Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten and Staatliches Hofbräuhaus). There are actually three sections to Oktoberfest: The Large Oktoberfest Grounds (Grosse Wiesn), Vintage Oktoberfest (which is actually part of the large Oktoberfest called Oide Wiesn), and the Small Oktoberfest Grounds (Kleine Wiesn). The Vintage Oktoberfest is the only part of the festival that costs money to get into.

Now onto our day at Oktoberfest…

IMG_8972.jpgTo start with, we wore our German best, our Dirndl and Lederhosen. We had gone shopping about a month back to pick out our outfits to wear not only to Oktoberfest, but to any festival that we attend. There is always a chance to wear them at festivals and picking out a good selection that fitted us properly was important. We were fitted and put together in our best by Moser and I would highly recommend them if you are up for paying a little extra to get “the real deal”.

IMG_8979.jpgGetting to Oktoberfest is super easy by train, about a 2-hour ride for us, and the train ride is already full of the brimming excitement. Having a drink or two on the train ride is completely normal during Oktoberfest and most people you see will actually have a beer in their hand while chatting with their friends. We sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the ride over.

The train dropped us right off at the main Munich Station and from there it was about a 20-minute walk to the actual fair grounds. Super easy to navigate as they have dedicated blocks/signs on the sidewalk showing you the way. There are also crowds and crowds of people heading there, so it’s hard to miss.

Once on the actual fairgrounds we headed straight for the beer tent. We were all meeting up at the Hofbrau Tent, which is the biggest, most packed tent. This year we did not have a reservation (more on that later), so we knew that the earlier we got into the tent the better chance we would have to get a seat. Luckily we were able to go right in, be seated at the table, and have our first beers in a matter of minutes.

You have a wide variety of beer (and alcohol) options, but even just the standard beer was delicious. I say this as a non-beer drinker. You are served full liters of beer, so be sure that you know your limits and can pace yourself properly. There is a couple of non-alcoholic beverages as well if you would like those. Now, within the tent you are able to order a variety of German Delicacies to eat, as well as pick up a Pretzel and a wide variety of souvenirs. We ended up not eating in the tent itself, just drinking some beer, and decided to walk the grounds instead, picking up food from one of the many vendors outside.

The atmosphere inside the tent is infectious. The high volume of people all feeling festive, feeling the alcohol, combined with the music and just the noise is incredible. It has a way of making you feel intoxicated when you haven’t even had anything to drink, and you really feel that “let loose” feeling. It’s fun to just sit and watch the people around you and allow yourself to get swept away. But, after some time it’s good to get out, get some air, and maybe take a little walk through the festival grounds.

Outside the beer tents, is a carnival set up. You’ve got carnival games, roller coaster rides, even a Ferris wheel and carousel. There are a lot of food vendors selling anything from chocolate, to candies, to nuts, and traditional German food. Honestly, we just wandered through the various streets, soaking in the atmosphere. Outside the tents is extremely family friendly (more on that later) and we saw plenty of families enjoying the carnival atmosphere.

Overall, we had such a blast and are definitely going to be attending every year that we are here. It is well worth…well everything, and we loved being able to just let loose and really experience the culture.

Some tips for you if you would like to go…

Tip #1: Take public transportation. Here’s the deal, you can drive there. You can park nearby and take a bus to the grounds. It is an option and may be the best option in some cases. HOWEVER, I feel like it is safer, faster, and easier to take the train. Not only are you avoiding the obvious drinking conundrum, you are also avoiding the traffic and parking. When we were leaving (by train), we happened to go right past the Autobahn, and it was completely stopped. No movement in any way. It’s a long day, don’t make it longer (or dangerous).

Tip #2: Reserve a table. You don’t HAVE to do this, however if you want to be guaranteed a table in the tent that you want to be in, reserve a table. You are able to reserve tables anytime from {just about} the conclusion of Oktoberfest up until a month or two before it opens. You may be able to get a seat when you arrive without a reservation or you may not. If you decide to reserve a table (or a seat), your reservation ticket comes with a beer, a meal, and a guaranteed time to have a seat.

Tip #3: Don’t bring a bag. Large bags are not permitted on the fairgrounds, and even small bags can be a bit of a hindrance. I took a small crossbody bag to hold our things (as we didn’t really have any pockets to use) and that was it. Diaper bags are not allowed. You can check the Oktoberfest website for full details on the size limitations if you absolutely need to bring a bag.

Tip #4: All About the Family. My honest opinion on Oktoberfest…don’t bring the kids. This is not to say that you can’t bring kids or that the event isn’t kid friendly. Outside the tents is actually quite family and kid friendly. They also offer family days where it may be a little “tamer”, but honestly, in the tents it gets crowded quite quickly and the spaces are so tight and packed that it may be a better option to not bring the kids. Strollers are allowed outside on the grounds Sunday through Friday till 6PM (not on Saturdays or the Public Holiday), and there are biergartens that you can sit, drink and eat at if you like. They do also do a “child finder” bracelet for young children (I’ve read about this, but did not have the kids with me so I don’t know how that works). It is entirely up to you and your family, but I don’t know that our children will every actually attend Oktoberfest.

Tip #5 Check the Oktoberfest Website. Oktoberfest is run by a great organization and the website is top notch. They have a map of the fairgrounds, including information on where everything is located, AND a really great tool to see what the crowd situation will look like while you are there. They have statistics from previous years, as well as any changes or improvements for the current year. There is also an app that you can download on your phone. It’s a really great option while you are trying to figure out your Oktoberfest experience.

 

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed learning and experiencing Oktoberfest with us! Honestly, if you are planning a trip and happen to be around on the same dates, make a day to go. It’s not only about drinking, it’s also the festival and just letting loose.

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?

Austria – A Long Weekend

We had a little break over the Memorial Day Weekend and took a long weekend away to the Austrian Alps (I just love to say Austrian Alps because let’s be honest- they are beautiful and I have yet to visit the Swiss Alps). We had a plan of going to The Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, which was our main goal of this trip, and then spending a little time in Salzburg and just relaxing. A couple days before we left we found out that The Eagle’s Nest was still actually closed due to weather, so that went out the window, BUT I was determined to find other things to do and still have a fun, relaxing time.

I’ll be breaking down our full weekend in this blog post for you and then I’ll be doing a much abridged tips/tricks post later on. I don’t have too many tips, but I’ll share what I do have in that post.

After a relatively short, easy drive (about 3.5 hours) on Friday we reached our AirBnB in the mountains of Austria. We’ve (aka my husband) have been really nailing booking solid AirBnB’s for these trips. It’s definitely been the way to go as we got to stay in the mountains in a full apartment with a stunning view.

The owners are great as well, getting us registered in the system (a requirement), giving us some train tips, and recommending a lot of things for us to do near the different spots we were already planning on going. We had a lovely dinner off of the main street in one of the small towns, stopped at a grocery to pick up a couple things and settled in for the night.

Our first full day we spent down in Berchtesgaden. Since we weren’t able to go to The Eagle’s Nest, it opened up our day a little bit more to do a couple other things. We started off at the Salt Mines, or Salzbergwerk Berchtesgaden.

This was one of those fun attractions that really allows you to immerse yourself and puts a topic that may be interesting, but not that interesting in a fun interactive way. We had to wear miner’s outfits (which was actually a good thing as it did get chilly in a comfortable way), rode a little mine “train” down to the entrance all before the tour even really began. The train drops you off at the “top” of the mine, then you ride several different “options” throughout the mine. Once off the train there is a brief introduction and then a short slide down to a deeper section. Each slide/train does have a walking option, but I would recommend doing the slides and such. They are easy and a lot of fun! There is also a little ferry ride during the tour over the water used in the mines, with a lightshow and music. The entire tour lasted about an hour to an hour and a half. We ate lunch at the little bistro attached to the salt mines and soaked up the start of afternoon sunshine.

The rest of the day we spent wandering the streets of Berchtesgaden. We wanted to head in to their castle, but it is closed on Saturday. Instead we hiked through the streets, thinking of what it all must have been like at the height of World War 2. We stopped into a couple of churches, which is kind of becoming a staple on all of these trips that we are taking, as well as the local cemetery. It is so absolutely beautiful there and we had fun just strolling along. The boys enjoyed walking through the streets as well. Our final stop was for dinner, which we had at Gasthof zum Neuhaus.

Our second day we rose early (thanks boys who woke with sunrise) and caught an “early” train in to Salzburg. Salzburg is known for so many things, The Sound of Music, Mozart, The Arts, The Alps, the list goes on. First off, I’ll say the beauty of Salzburg is incredible. It is just mother nature at her finest in every part. I particularly love that the town was built with the mountains and river in mind. They didn’t change any of the beauty of nature, but rather enhanced it with the churches, squares, and fortresses.

We decided to work from the farthest highest point that we wanted to go to back to the train station we needed at the end of the day. So that meant a hefty hike/climb up to the Fortress Hohensalzburg. This is an 11 century fortress that was actually built and maintained by Prince-Archbishops. This fortress maintains status as one of the largest medieval castle in Europe. I will say- this was a hefty trek. It is all uphill (obviously) and is a combination of pathway and stairs. There is a funicular that goes both all the way up and back down- we didn’t know this until after we had taken it down. BUT the trek was well worth it for not only the history of the fortress, but the stunning overlook at the end.

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It was breathtaking to look over Salzburg, the mountains, and the river from one of the highest points (not the highest I don’t think). We had some snacks after the tour and then rode the funicular (which was also a stunning view) back down the mountain.

From the fortress we worked our way through the main square, and over to the Salzburg Cathedral.

This Cathedral has to be one of the most stunning cathedrals I have yet to see. The detail, the painting, the woodwork, everything- just beautiful. We walked through the Cathedral and then down to the Crypt. Everywhere we looked was just something to be amazed by. Truly a masterpiece.

From this Cathedral we headed over to St. Peter’s so I could live out my Sound of Music Dreams. When we walked in there was a performance going on within one of the area’s so we got to listen to the main song of The Sound of Music as we walked through the square which just added to all of the ambience.

We walked through the square, the cemetery, and the Catacombs (which meant more stairs). The cemetery holds some of the oldest graves we’ve seen as well as graves for some very famous people.

706016795891509037_IMG_4542.jpgOne of the final spots we went to was Mozart’s Birth House. There are two Mozart houses in Salzburg, the first being is Birthplace and the second being his Residence. His birthplace is still the original structure, with a combination of original and replica’s within. The Residence has been fully reconstructed after being destroyed during World War 2. We decided to focus on his Birthplace during this trip as we were starting to run a little low on time (and kids energy). It is truly something incredible to stand in a place that other prodigies lived and just see the lasting impact. This was an incredible experience and one I wont forget anytime soon. I have always loved Mozart’s music and to see his family lineage, and then his children and wife was really neat.

Our final stop before dinner and then the train home was Mirabell Palace. We didn’t go in the palace itself, which is from the 17thcentury, but rather just took a little break in the gardens.

The gardens are absolutely beautiful (as with everything else) and also boast some of the Sound of Music filming spots. We took a quick break, walked along the covered arches, and then peaked into the Marble Hall where musical performances take place. We then had an early dinner at Sternbrau.

Overall this trip was just as incredible as our other May trip and was just what we needed. I definitely plan on going back to Salzburg at some point to do a little shopping (we went on a Sunday when all the stores are closed) and a little more sightseeing. We also do plan on going back to Berchtesgaden for the Eagle’s Nest, the Nature Park Hike and the Castle. When we do, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

I hope you enjoyed seeing this first trip to Austria through our eyes and our traveling. If you’ve been to Austria, let me know what your favorite part was! If you haven’t, let me know what you’d like to see!

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Things You Should Do and Trips For : Fussen, Neuschwanstein

Not too long ago we spent one of the most incredible weekends away in the little town of Fussen Germany. You can read about everything that we did while we were there HERE. The entire weekend was like a dream come true and I can’t wait to share some of the things that we loved and would recommend…which is, well, everything. I say that jokingly, but seriously this entire trip should definitely go on a travel bucket list. This will be a shorter tips post as there isn’t as much to do/we didn’t do as much on this trip.

Recommendations:

We shall start with the obvious, the Castles.

I would recommend reserving a pass for both Castle’s at the very least.You can pre reserve tickets online, however you do have to pick them up an hour before your time. Since you are already there you might as well see both and I think it is well worth the price. As I said in my first post there are no true replica’s, everything is original to the castle. If you can really only afford to see one, Hohenschwangau is the most “step” friendly (Neushwanstein has approximately 130 steps up and 130 steps down) and has the most finished rooms. The tour gives you a good insight into the royal family and the castle and grounds. Neuschwanstein is incredible inside, but only has a few finished sections to look through and I found the exterior to be quite incredible and accessible by foot. I should note and say that my husband would disagree and choose to do Neushwanstein over Hohenschwangau.

Marienbrucke Bridge.This is a MUST go when you visit the castles. You are going to get one of the best views of the entire castle and such a wonderful experience out of this bridge. The path up to the bridge is littered with some picture perfect spots and you can cross to the other side of the bridge and see a couple of the other viewing spots. The bridge itself gets packed very quickly so be orderly about viewing/pictures and moving along for others to do the same.

Make a Full Day out of It.There is so much beauty in this area that you could easily pack a lunch/snacks or eat at any of the restaurants/food stands and make a full day out of it.

I’ll briefly touch onFussen:

I would first off recommend staying in town(or as close to in town as you can) and using AirBnB to book your room. Not only are the rates slightly different or better than the hotels, but you can get a true experience of the city and people when you book through AirBnB as opposed to a hotel. They have a wide variety of spots right outside of town (such as where we stayed: Mein Lieber Schwan Fussen/Allgau) and they are absolutely perfect.

I would also recommend going to Kalvarienburg. This was the hike that we did and while it does have a religious aspect to it, you do not have to participate in that if you choose not to. It is truly a beautiful hike, right in nature, with a stunning overlook at the end. This is a must do and I feel like it is a relatively easy hike for those who may not be used to hiking.

Take a morning to sit at a café and soak up the atmosphere.This might not be most peoples “thing” (it definitely is not my husbands, but even he enjoyed this), but in a little town like this it is one of the best things to do. It doesn’t have to be on the main stretch (ours wasn’t), but it is the perfect way to start your day, have a mid afternoon break, or end your evening. There are options for café’s, ice cream stops, or fountains to just rest for a little while. In the meantime you can people watch and soak up the way of life. Sometimes a slow approach can be just as wonderful as going full steem ahead.

Tips:

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Tip #1: Get to the property early.They are very strict about time and if you miss the time of your tour you may not get to see the interior of the castle at all. We arrived about an hour to hour and a half before our tour time to find parking, get our tickets, and explore a little before the tour. There are plenty of spots to sit and relax, take in the view, get a bite to eat, or do a little souvenir shopping, so don’t worry about being too early. You’ll want to be at the entrance gate about 15-20 minutes prior to your ticket time just to err on the side of caution.

Tip #2: Only bring one bag. You can bring backpacks/purses on to the property and in to the castles, however when going into Neuschwanstein you have to carry the backpack or purse on the front of your body. If you are traveling with young children this can be difficult and looking back I feel like we could have made do with just one bag and made our lives a little bit easier going through the castles themselves.

Tip #3: Don’t bring a stroller unless you have an infant/non walking child, and even then try and baby wear.  Seriously, we only used our umbrella stroller once the entire weekend (the first night). We didn’t get it out at the castle as both boys really just wanted to walk and we alternated when they would need a little break. The castle themselves are full of stairs, so a stroller is definitely not feasible and I don’t know that I saw a designated “safe” spot for them.

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Tip #1: Walk everywhere!!Seriously the town is just so perfect and was made for strictly walking. Anything you could want is within a walking distance to just about wherever you are and the main street and square are absolute perfection. I would highly recommend just hanging out there!

Tip #2: Make sure to check out Fussen Castle.This castle is not one that is talked about (because let’s be honest, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein really run that show), but it is still a pretty cool castle and was turned into an art gallery. Even just walking through the path’s within the castle and the little hike behind it is stunning.

So that is it on our Fussen weekend! Have you been to any of these spots? If you have anything to add, leave it in the comments below!

 

Fussen Germany – A Weekend Away

In May we spent a weekend away in a small town called Fussen Germany. We booked this trip to go and see the famed Neuschwanstein Castle, as well as Hohenschwangau Castle (same property). We had decided that when we got there we would decide what else we wanted to do that was nearby. We didn’t have too much of a plan and I decided that we should treat it as a little slow getaway. As a chance to relax, live a little bit slower, take it easy. It definitely was that!

We found a room on Airbnb at a place called Mein Lieber Schwan (website: https://www.meinlieberschwan.de). This has to be one of the best locations that we’ve booked and was the prettiest little apartment. We had a full kitchen/living room, bedroom, sitting room (we used this for the boy’s bedroom), and a little terrace that had an incredible view. From our bedroom window you could see the silhouette of Neuschwanstein Castle as well as the main town. This room was a dream and the location was perfect as it was walking distance from just about everything.

-1281214946695758235_IMG_2991Our first evening we wandered around the main town area before heading to dinner. The town itself is full of that European/German appeal that you come to expect. The main street/square is littered with café’s, restaurants, and shops.  It backs up to the Austrian Alps (you are right at the German/Austria border), so you can view the mountain range just about wherever you look. We wandered through the town, headed out to a short nature walk which went through a fort of some sort from 1897. We then headed out to dinner at a restaurant called Ritterstuben.

 

Our first full day in Fussen was our exciting day full of castle’s. We had decided to book to see both Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castle’s as we were interested in both and if we were already going to be there, we might as well see both. Our tour times were not too early, 9:55AM, but we weren’t sure of the parking situation, we had to pick up our tickets, and they are very strict on the entrance times for the castles. For these reasons, we decided to get to the castle about an hour early and boy, was I glad that we did. There is so much more to see to this spot than just the castles.

At the end of the property there is an absolutely beautiful spot; a lake that backs right up to the Austrian Alps that you can walk along for a stretch. The whole area is breathtakingly beautiful but for this lake/mountain/nature loving family it was something truly spectacular (honestly, no joke or exaggeration, rounding the corner to this took my breathe away). We got to have a beautiful start to our day watching the fog breakaway from both the lake and the castles, and the boys got to mingle with some very friendly ducks.

Our first castle tour was Hohenschwangau, which is the smaller of the two castles, the older of the two, and the most “finished” of the two. There is absolutely no photography allowed in the castle’s themselves and while I don’t precisely know why, I suspect the reason is twofold- price of the tickets and preservation of the castle. The interior is all original, from the fresco’s and paintings to the furniture, layout, and lighting. The preservation itself is phenomenal and the tour gave us a little insight into the lives of the royal family at the time. Hohenschwangau was predominantly used as a Summer and hunting home by King Maximillian II, his wife, Marie of Prussia, and as a childhood home for their children, King Ludwig II and Kong Otto I. The castle made it through both world wars without damage and portions are still in use today by members of the former royal family.

The tour is semi guided- you have a tour guide who opens the doors and points out little tidbits, but on the whole the tour itself is given in audio format (via little devices that you can either plug headphones into or hold up to your ear). All in all, the tour lasted about 30-40 minutes and gave us a pretty good look at the interior and the family’s life.

We had about an hour or so before our second tour began so we decided to take a carriage tour up to Neuschwanstein. There are three options to get from the Hohenschwangau castle to Neuschwanstein: bus, walk, or horse drawn carriage. Now we have two little toddlers who are excellent walkers, but also love to be carried. We had already walked quite a bit that day (and they did really really well on this past trip with walking) and we knew that we still had a lot more to go. We ended up deciding to take the horse drawn carriage up to the castle (I know horse drawn carriages have their own issues) and it was definitely a fun way to feel special heading up to the castle. Every girl can dream of having that Cinderella moment and this is a good way to get that experience.

If you were impressed by the beauty of Hohenschwangau castle, just wait till we talk through Neuschwanstein.

 

This takes the castle concept to a whole new level. In fact, Neuschwanstein castle inspired the “fairytale castle” for Walt Disney and Magic Kingdom. Neuschwanstein was built by King Ludwig II (fun fact- he could watch the castle being built from his room in Hohenschwangau, he had a telescope set up in the room to do so).

It was built in the 19thCentury, however the interior was not fully finished, and King Ludwig only spent a very short amount of time in the castle before his death. This castle also made it through both world wars without any damage. On the tour we were able to see the King’s Quarters, the Throne Room, the Grotto and another. The tour is handled in the same was as Hohenschwangau, an audio tour led by a guide and once again, I felt like we got a really good amount of information about the castle and the King.

The final stop on our “Castle” Day was Marienbrucke.

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This is a bridge that crosses a valley on one side of the Neuschwanstein Castle. It provides not only a beautiful look at the castle, but also at the nature and mountains all around. It is absolutely stunning and well worth the short hike to get to it from Neuschwanstein (even for me who is absolutely terrified of heights/being suspended in air). Once again, an absolutely breathtaking sight. Most of the pictures that you see of Neuschwanstein are from this view point.

IMG_2068.jpgWe ended our day with another little walk through the town and dinner at a place called Gasthof Krone. This is a medieval restaurant that offers typical German food with the medieval environment. Beer is served in large mugs, soda’s and other drinks in pottery cups. They do set up shows and such, but for special groups and other times. It was a fun experience to have and we really enjoyed our meal (especially my husband who got some local dish). After dinner we headed out on a little mini hike back down to another bridge where we watched the sunset on the lake/alps. A Beautiful end to a perfect day.

 

Our third, and last full day in Fussen, we decided to do a morning breakfast at one of the cute café’s and then a hike. We’ve always loved being in nature/outdoors and if we can find something out in nature we will do it. This particular hike promised a fantastic overview of Fussen and a memorable experience. Breakfast was at one of the cutest little cafés’, Bio Café Baumgarten, that had both a fantastic backdrop and delicious food/drink. We fueled up with Crepe’s Croissants, and a Cappuccino for me, Blood Orange Juice for Rob. We actually stayed in this little spot for around an hour (the longest we’ve ever stayed like this) and it was just the most perfect start.

The sun really came out when we headed out for the hike to Kalvarienberg. The hike is uphill and touches on some religious aspects throughout. It does not have to be a religious experience if you do not want it to be, you can treat it as just a good hike. It is uphill to begin, alternating between steps and terrain and there a couple natural break spots should you need them.

Once you reach the top you are rewarded with one of the most spectacular views that you could ever dream of.

On one side you see both castles and lake along with the Austrian Alps and on the other you get a full look at the town of Fussen.  Again, breathtaking ( I feel like that word is really the only word that can adequately describe everything we saw and experienced on this weekend away). It was truly an incredible view to see.

On our way back down from the overlook we headed to Lechfalls, which is a waterfall system with an Austrian Alps backdrop.

The waterfall themselves were a beautiful sight and it was a really pretty hike to get to them and then get back to the room. The falls themselves are quite simple, it is more the backdrop I feel that adds the level of beauty.

Our final night included dinner at Alstadt Hotel. The dinner was fantastic, as always, and afterwards we wandered the Fussen Castle.

The town of Fussen has its own castle (though not as grand as the other two) and we wandered through its cobblestone entryway, read about its siege techniques, as well as the painting technique on the exterior (hint: all the bits you see are actually painted on to the walls, except for a certain few to give it a much more grand look). The castle itself is now an art gallery, although it was closed when we walked through.

This whole weekend away was beyond my expectations and dreams. I keep using the word breathtaking, but it is really the only word that can even come close to some of the sights that we saw and experienced. I’ll be doing a tips/tricks post, although it will be shorter than some of my past ones, but I highly recommend that you add Fussen and Neushwanstein on to your must-see list!

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May In Travel

I feel like I say this every month, but how has this month already come to an end? We are looking at the end of May and almost being halfway through 2019! I can’t believe we are a)already at that point and b) have already been in Germany for almost 4 months!!! It seems like time is simultaneously flying by and standing still…if that makes sense.

We did a relatively decent amount of travel in May between day trips and weekends away. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this might have been my favorite month of travel so far! It’s been a fun month of new experiences and although I don’t have all the details tracked out for you yet (coming in the next 2 weeks- stay tuned!!), I will give you guys little peaks into each place.

The first weekend wasn’t too terribly exciting as we adventured back to the big city that is going to be near our house (yes, you read that right, we have a house- more on that at the end of the post!!) and seeing what all the shopping options are in that city.

Our second weekend we did a day trip through our local Outdoor Recreation program that involved taking a steam train through the countryside and trekking through a cave. It was easily one of those cool things that you can do in an absolutely gorgeous location. The boys LOVED the steam train (they thought it was the coolest thing ever) and we all enjoyed leaning out of the windows on the train. The cave has quite the history and we emerged to a gorgeous sunny sky (after a bit of a cloudy start) and a beautiful overlook. It was a really fun day spent with friends. You can read more about it HERE.

Our third weekend in May we spent in one of the prettiest spots that we could ever imagine. Fussen Germany looked like it was a set straight out of a movie (and maybe it was-I’m not sure). I’ve got a full blog post coming detailing our entire trips as well as some tips/recommendations, but safe to say this is a favorite spot. It was the perfect pairing of slow, small town, and beautiful nature/scenery. We were gutted to leave on Sunday morning.

Our final weekend we spent in the absolute beauty that is Austria. We actually flitted back and forth on the border between Germany and Austria throughout the weekend, spending one day in Berchtesgaden and the second day in Salzburg. Once again as with Fussen, I will have a full blog post coming with all the details, but Austria is seriously just so beautiful. The overlooks to see the town are breathtaking, you see the alps from every area and the pacing of the town is just so nice. We aren’t even going to get into all the Sound of Music singing.

And that was our month in travel! We had a lot of fun this month, but are ready for a little breathing room. June is going to be a more “close to home” traveling month with day trips, some down time, and then an exciting move at the end of the month. We’ve finally got a house to move in to, so that along with a very exciting July is playing into a quieter June. As much as I love traveling and we’ve been enjoying it, we are homebodies at heart and are looking forward to a little quiet and peace.