Frankische Schweiz and Pottenstein – A Day Trip

***As a note before we begin, some of these photo’s (in particular the cave one’s) were taken with my cellphone, not my nice, good camera. Between the cellphone camera and the dark nature of the cave, the photos did not turn out in the best way that I would normally feature on my blog. My apologies***

This past Sunday we decided to do a very special Sunday Funday trip and take a Steam Train Ride and explore a cave in a region somewhat near us. Our local post has an Outdoor Recreation Office that organizes a variety of trips for the residents assigned to the post. Sometimes it can be a little more cost effective to go through them for the trips they offer and sometimes they will offer up experiences that you hadn’t otherwise planned or thought about doing. A lot of times they are organized for group numbers and can therefore be offered at a lower price point than if you were to book it on your own.

This was not the case with this trip (I think our pricing was just standard pricing as if we had gone to get tickets ourselves), but they organized the whole day from start to finish. It did mean a very early start to our day (alarms set for 5 AM, to make sure we were ready, with a leave time of 7AM), but it was so incredibly worth it. A real dream come true. If you have the option to go through a group travel or through your own Outdoor Recreation office, you should totally do it! We love to travel on our own but doing it in a group was really fun as well.

So, we started our morning off with a beautiful, scenic drive to Frankische Schweiz area to a little train station (you can view the website for the train HERE, but you’ll want to use a google translate as it is only in German). We did end up blowing a tire not far from the station (thankfully it was that close, and we were moving at a slow speed so no real loss of control or anything like that), but it gave us a fun memory to go along with the experience. Our guide from the day was very informative, talking us through not only the day, but cool spots to come back to in the future.

Once at the station we got to take a look at the train itself, watch them bring the steam engine up and connect it all before boarding the train. Our boys LOVED  being able to watch the steam engine pull forward, backwards, and hook up to the train car. It wasn’t too long after we boarded that we were slowly starting to move. The Steam Train itself is from the 1930’s and still runs really well. The full ride was an hour, or two long and we got to lean out the windows, which the boys loved, and get out at the halfway point to watch them move the engine car to the other end. And, of course, they sounded the whistle anytime we were coming through a station or crossing.

If you get a chance to take a steam train ride, wherever you are, I would highly recommend it. Not only do you get that nostalgic feeling of a time gone by, but it is also just such a slower, prettier, more relaxed way to see the countryside. The steam trains can only go so fast, so you really get a chance to take in the towns and landscapes around you.

We then stopped for lunch at a little restaurant along the Wiesent River where three families with 4 toddlers and 2 infants managed to have a full calm no fuss meal. It’s a miracle! The restaurant was called Bruckla and I had a lovely tomato soup and a sneaky little slice of cake. (No pictures this time though!).

Once we finished lunch we boarded back on to the bus to head over to Teufelshohle Pottentstein (Devil’s Cave). This is a naturally formed limestone cave that features several different formations and can be trekked about a mile through. You climb about 400 steps during the course of the tour. It was discovered in 1922 and was extended/ dug through for the following 10 years. It is the longest cave in Germany (sitting at just under/around one mile) and the largest in Franconian Switzerland. You can read about the Cave/Visit the Site HERE, but again it will be listed in German so Google Translate will be a good option.

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There are several “landmarks” of the cave, the first being Devil’s Hole. This is the first hall and features some of the equipment used to dig through after a cave in and some natural formations on the ceiling. Walking past here we can see several natural limestone formations before reaching the next “landmark”, Bears Grotto. This features a complete skeleton of a cave bear. Per the cave the bear was approximately 900 pounds and stood at 12 ft high. There are also some pretty cool formations staggered around the hall.

One of the other “landmarks” that we saw within the cave was a large cavern that was covered in stalagmites and stalactites. Called the “Colossal Hall” It is 42 ft high and features the two oldest limestones of Devil’s Cave. These two formations are suspected of being over 300,000 years old. Then finally we saw the Candle Hall and headed through some very (and I mean VERY) tight quarters to find our way to the exit.

IMG_0831Upon exiting the cave, you come out to this beautiful rock formation and a lite gorge hike to reach the exit of the park. When we walked into the cave we had some light cloud cover, but when we stepped out it was full sunshine and a blue sky. What a wonderful way to come back to ground!

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Overall, this was one of our most memorable Sunday Funday’s and a day trip that I am not likely to forget anytime soon. If you have the chance to do a group travel through your own Outdoor Recreation program I highly recommend it. It was a great way to get to know a couple other families (we knew one of the other families) and you get to experience these things together which is always a fun addition.

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Sunset at the end of Sunday Funday

 

Things You Should Do and Tips For: The Netherlands and Amsterdam

Good morning! We recently spent a long weekend away in The Netherlands, which you can read all about HERE, and this morning I am going to talk about some of the tips/tricks that we learned and what I would recommend you do as well as maybe some things that are maybe a little over hyped.

As always, this will heavily depend on your own interest, how you are traveling, and the time of year that you are going. This is the first (and only) time that we have been to The Netherlands and we went to see two spots, Amsterdam and the Tulip Gardens. We were only there for 3 nights total, so we didn’t get to see everything that we had wanted to. We also traveled with our two young children, which as with Berlin, factored into what we did and didn’t do. I am going to do these as two separate sections, one for Amsterdam and one for everything else, that way if you are only interested in Amsterdam you can only read that part or if you are only interested in the Tulips you can only read that part. It is also too much and too different to try and consolidate into one long recommendations and tips section.

Recommendations for Amsterdam

It may seem overly touristy but take advantage of the boat rides along the canals. To be completely honest this is one of the best ways to get an overall look at the city, the canals, the different “high points”, but without all of the tourists. You aren’t fighting a crowd to look at a church or tower. It also gives you a unique point of view from what it would have been like in history.  If you take the train in, you can find plenty of options all along the exit of the station, as well as options all throughout the canals. Depending on what you are more interested in, you’ll find a boat tour that will meet those needs (we saw everything from a romantic cruise, to all about the alcohol, to a standard hear the history and nothing more). We didn’t originally plan on doing a boat ride, but our older son insisted, and it didn’t look too bad when we got out there.

I would also recommend heading over to Dam Square. This is the main town square and there is usually always something going on. From here you can get a good view of the exterior of The Royal Palace, see The National Monument, and the Nieuwe Kerk Church. There are also a couple other spots right off the square if you’re interested, Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. We did not go in either of those, but we did go inside the Royal Palace. I’ll be honest, The Royal Palace tour is not a necessity to a trip to Amsterdam. If you are interested you can certainly do it, but it is not like a “must see”. I really enjoyed it, but I am a royal fan and think that seeing different palace’s and other type of government buildings is really interesting.

A couple of the spots that I wish we could have gone to, that were on our list but didn’t end up being an option, were: The Anne Frank House, Foodhallen, and The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. I’ll get into The Anne Frank House in my tips/tricks, the Foodhallen is a food court that came highly highly recommended to us, and the Rijksmuseum as a lot of Dutch history that we wanted to learn about.

I’ll touch on one more spot as I feel like I need to make a note on this because to be honest, not a lot of people talk about Amsterdam without talking about The Red Light District OR the booming cannabis market/options. We walked through the Red Light District and I found it to be just like a regular stroll (in a weird way). Here’s the thing, first off you cannot take video or pictures in the District. This is to protect the workers that are there, and I can completely understand. These are regular people who are doing what it is that they do. Just because it is not something that we see every day, or something that may not be as popular or destigmatized in our area of the world, does not mean that they need to put in a spotlight situation. If you choose to stroll along the District, do not leer, do not linger, just be respectful. These are people just as we are, and they are doing what they choose and want to do.

 Tips for Amsterdam:

Tip #1: Bikes have the right of way and they will exercise that right of way whether you are aware of that or not. Amsterdam (and The Netherlands in general) has a huge biking community, it’s how the majority of their population gets around. Most places will have designated bike lanes, so don’t hover in those lanes and make sure that you are aware of where they are when there are no designated lanes.

If you want the true experience, there are so many different bike rental spots!

Tip #2: Make it an Adult Only or Girls Trip. This one is going to be a little bit hard to explain, or maybe it won’t, but I think Amsterdam would be so much different if it was just adults. I don’t say this for any “content” warning for what is in Amsterdam or for any lack of enjoyment reason. We loved (and do still love) taking our kids out throughout the world, exposing them to new cultures, places, people that they would not otherwise get to experience. HOWEVER, Amsterdam is so packed with people that you are spending a good amount of your time just shuffling along with the crowds and worrying about being separate from those you are with, until you get out of the main area. I think I worried a little bit more than normal with having our kids there.

Tip #3: Look at staying outside of the City Limits and taking the train in. Amsterdam is quite expensive and staying in a hotel in the city is very expensive. It is also, once again, full of people and traffic. We stayed outside the city in a little town and took the train in to Central Amsterdam. We were able to book a little cottage on AirBnB for a very reasonable price and it gave us a little breathing room. We didn’t have to worry about fighting traffic in a car or finding parking for the day. I am already a really big believer in public transportation, and this weekend away really confirmed that for me.

Recommendations for Tulips/Flower Season

As for how I would recommend you approach the tulip season that is going to depend on what you actually want to see. If you want to see just the Tulip Fields, there are a couple of different farms that you can go to. Lisse is the most popular spot and has the largest amount of options to see Tulips. MAKE SURE that you check my Tips out though, because there are some rules you will want to be available of. You can also see the Tulips just driving along the road and throughout train rides. I believe you can also see them from the sky, but I couldn’t confirm that.

We went to Keukenhof Tulip Garden, which is one of the more famous well-known spots for the Tulips. I knew that I wanted to see a bit of both the Tulip Fields AND the more manicured growing plots. Keukenhof has the best of both worlds for that. They boast about 7 Million Bulbs are planted and grown in their garden and I would believe it. Plus, believe me when I say there is something for everyone here. They have a kid’s area in the center where there is a playground, petting zoo, and park to eat at. There is also a maze for the kids to run through. There is a windmill that gives you a view over the fields, water, and gardens as well as two other overlook spots. Finally, you also have the indoor flower shows that follow along with themes for the year (one changes weekly). They have a unique planting and growing system that allows them to have blooms for eight weeks, so you have plenty of time to check them out.

My other recommendation would be to bike through the countryside. This is an excellent way to not only see the beautiful countryside of The Netherlands, but also see the Tulip Fields, the windmills, and be true to how the people get around. It is such a fun way to get around and see the country.

Tips for Tulips/Flower Season

Tip #1 (Possibly the Most Important One): DO NOT just go traipsing through the tulip fields all willy nilly to try and get the perfect picture or see them better. The Tulips are not only part of The Netherlands and the culture, but it is also a HUGE business for them. They work incredibly hard to grow and maintain the tulips and walking through the actual field itself ruins the flowers and the field. Only do this at the land owners permission (and if you’ve paid for it).

Tip #2:Go as early in the day as possible. No matter when you go or how you choose to see the Tulips it is going to be crowded. We went the peak weekend for the blooms, which also happened to be Easter Weekend and I didn’t feel like we were fighting the crowds until the very end of our time in the park. We went shortly after they opened and a few hours later everyone else seemed to start coming in. So, go early!

Tip #3:Just enjoy the beauty around you. I am a big one for documenting everything, taking all of the pictures, capturing every bloom and even I had to take a step back and just enjoy the sheer beauty around you. This is such a special place and time and honestly, not to get hokey, just take a step back from the camera/phone and enjoy the moment.

And on that note…

Those are all of my Things You Should Do and Tips for Amsterdam/The Netherlands! We do hope to go back and see some other area’s in the country one day, but this was one of the best trips we’ve taken. If you have any specific questions I will try to answer them in the comments below and if you have any of your own tips, please leave them below!

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.

 

 

 

Travel Favorites

Good morning! It’s been no secret that we’ve been doing a fair amount of travelling over the past month or two. Whether we are just taking a day trip to somewhere nearby, or a long weekend a little further away, we’ve been out and about A LOT. This is something that we are really enjoying and, while we are still learning the in’s and out’s, I’ve quickly narrowed down some of the “non necessity” things that we actually use and are practical for us. This morning I’ve compiled some of these into a list for you. Some of these things are important, other are more personal preference.

As with all of my posts, some of these favorites are common sense and things you’ve already been using, but some maybe not. Also- some of these are kid related, so just a heads up.

Favorite #1 (The Most Obvious of them all): Trip Advisor

6905943742080302898_IMG_1096.jpgOk, we are starting of with the obvious. Everyone knows and uses Trip Advisor, but it’s really been a wonderful tool for us. We’ve found some really good hidden gems of places on the app and at times it’s been the only thing we could get to work and show us what’s around. I don’t think I really need to say anything further about Trip Advisor as it’s the most popularJ

Favorite #2: Comfortable (but Fashionable) Shoes

637494542946733218_IMG_1097.jpgWe are just going to keep up with the obvious here, with a pair of sneakers. When we moved here I came with my Under Armour workout sneakers. I love these sneakers, but I”ll be honest- they didn’t really work with most of the clothes that I wear. They go with the screenprint tee’s and such, but not with the sweaters that I typically wear in winter/spring. I looked around for a little bit across three brands: Puma, Adiddas, and Superga’s. I found shoe’s that I liked with all three brands, but I finally settled on a pair of Grey Puma Sneakers and I’ve loved them ever since. They are a great pair of walking shoes that let me get away with wearing them with Sweaters and they look like sneakers without looking like sneakers. I don’t know, I think it works…

Favorite #3: A Small (but stylish) Bag

IMG_9585Ok, so still obvious, at this point they may all just be obvious ones. I talked about this new bag in my quarterly favorites, but I wanted to talk about it a little bit more. When we prepped for the move I had purchased an inexpensive bag that I could use for travel, didn’t care much about it getting scuffed or scratched, but still looked nice. I didn’t want to take one of my nicer “designer” hand bags and worry constantly that it was getting damaged while we were traveling. Admittedly, a shoulder tote bag was not the *BEST* option while you are traveling, but I hadn’t really researched any of the backpack purses at that time. Now, the first couple of weekends while we were here we were doing long day trips and that shoulder bag started to get really uncomfortable. So, I looked around to find a smaller “backpack purse”. I was going in between practical and stylish with a Michael Kors/Coach/Kate Spade OR a Fjallraven Kanken Backpack. I ended up settling on this Michael Kors backpack as I felt it was just more of what I wanted. It is the absolute perfect size for our family, fitting the diaper clutch, cups, and snacks for the boys, along with my wallet and a book or notebook (if I’m being generous) without feeling really heavy. It sits comfortably both on my shoulders and back. My only complaint is that it has a drawstring with a magnetic enclosure, which makes me a little wary, but I just shuffle things around so that everything is secure. Either way, if you are a mom with older children that still needs to carry quite a bit (but not enough for a diaper bag) a small backpack is the way to go. And honestly, if you are a traveler at all, a backpack is a better option and a more comfortable option than a purse.

Favorite #4: Rain Jacket/Jacket

IMG_9770 2.jpgSo, Europe is rainy…it rains A LOT. We knew we were going to need rain jackets and we look around constantly for jackets that we liked. We picked up thick waterproof jackets before we came over and those have been perfect for the winter time here. They are perfect for layering underneath and have just enough to keep us dry when those rains hit. I wore this jacket everyday of our Berlin weekend and felt more than warm enough and dry as a bone under it. I’ve also picked up a light weather jacket for Spring/Summer when it is a warm rain. Again waterproof and I can still fit a long sleeve shirt under it for when fall comes.

Fun packing tip- when you are packing a jacket with a hood, the jacket is designed to roll up and fit into the hood. Seems rather obvious but I had never heard of it until the sales associate showed me when I bought mine.

Favorite #5: Camera

IMG_6739.jpgOk, we are getting to the expensive part of this post. The truly expensive part. I LOVE photography. I love taking pictures, sharing pictures, using photo’s as a way to commemorate our time. So much so, that sometimes I drive my husband a little crazy with the amount of pictures I take and the amount of times we have to stop to take a picture. It’s just who I am and how I choose to remember things. Now, your phone has a decent enough camera. You can take some good pictures with it and there are times that I just pull my phone out and get the picture that I want. BUT it honestly doesn’t replace an actual camera. Now, I use a camera for both photo’s and video’s and will use a different camera for different things (for the record I have this one and another DSLR style camera that I would eventually like to sell and replace). For travel, I only take my Canon G7X. You’ve probably heard of this camera before and it is totally worth the hype and the price. It is a really good camera and is very user friendly.

Favorite #6: For the Kids

I am just going to lump a couple of things in this category together as they are all pretty obvious, and related to kids. -4631477505359057470_IMG_0746.jpgThe first thing is I would recommend an umbrella stroller, unless you are at a zoo/park/somewhere that offers the carts. Umbrella strollers get a lot of “crap” talk, but when your 3 year old is tired (or your very heavy 22 month old) having something that is not your arms/shoulders to let them fall asleep in is such a blessing. It’s also a little bit of fun for the two kids to push each other. We are actually going to purchase a second one (we only have one at this time). IMG_6734.jpgMy second favorite is The Dover Little Activity Books. We purchased a set of these prior to our Germany flight and our kids loved doing the little sticker activities. They aren’t big, take up practically no space, and come with everything you need for about 30-40 minutes of quiet. So easy to just throw in your bag and pull out when you need to stop and eat or have a longer train ride or whenever you need just a bit of peace.

And that’s it! Do you have any particular travel favorites? Let me know below as we are still definitely learning what we like and what works for us.

 

Dachau Concentration Camp – A Day Trip

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

We recently did a very hard, but very important trip to Dachau Concentration Camp. We plan on going to several Concentration Camps during our time here in Germany and originally I had wanted to do one post talking about each of the camps and our overall experiences and feelings. Now, having been to one, I don’t think it is possible to do only one blog post. Not only is there just too much to share (and yet no words to share it, but I’ll get into that), but each camp is different and each camp (I’m assuming here) will bring with it different feelings. How can that be, you may be wondering…Well, not every camp was intended to be a death camp and each camp, while designed the same, holds different information and experiences.

I am going to touch very briefly on the history of the camp itself as I feel like it is important to note, because while many died at Dachau (I think 41,500) it was not originally intended as a death camp. I am focusing on the camp itself, NOT what happened within the camp. There is a much {much} longer history and I you can take a look at the site HERE for a full timeline breakdown.

Dachau was the first camp to exist and was originally created for political prisoners in 1933. Later on, it was used as the model for other concentration camps, and many of the soldiers that lead and worked at other concentration camps received their training in Dachau. It was considered the cream of the crop. In 1935 they started sending larger amounts and different prisoner groups to the concentration camps. In 1937 they re worked the camp and “expanded” to create space for a larger number of prisoners. This is when the number of prisoners start to rise drastically, conditions start to go downhill, and many prisoners start to die. In 1943 they started creating “subsidiary camps” where the prisoners were forced laborers. The camp was liberated in 1945, a little over 12 years after it was opened. In its time it listed 200,000 prisoners total in the main and subsidiary camps.

One more thing before I get into my own experiences, pictures, and such- this memorial and preservation was done in part by the survivors of the camp. The survivors of the camp banded together and worked with the Bavarian government to turn it into a Memorial Site. I feel like that is important to note.

I quite honestly did not know what to expect. I was raised with the faith and practiced for quite a long time. I consider being Jewish as part of my heritage and as part of who I am (even though I don’t practice). When I was in Middle School/Jr. High School I was obsessed with reading and learning everything I could about the Holocaust. I read a fair amount of books about the Holocaust, still do, watched documentaries and tried to comprehend what happened. My husband is a WW2 fanatic and has seen his fair share of documentaries and together we’ve watched almost all of the WW2 and Holocaust documentaries that are out there. I thought I had a good idea of what to expect.

Let me say this, it is one thing to read about these places, to watch documentaries, to see footage, to listen to survivors’ stories and it is a COMPLETELY different thing to actually be there. To actually walk through a place that held so much terror. So much pain. So much death. There are no words to describe it. Not a single word would do justice the feelings that I, and I’m sure others, experienced walking through the steps of the prisoners. No words.

So, I’m not going to give you words. A picture paints a thousand words and I am going to let the pictures tell the story. I encourage you to look through the pictures (each will have a brief description of what it is), try and imagine yourself walking the steps as you look at the pictures. Take a moment out of your day to just sit with the pictures, to honor the memories of those that walked here, that suffered here, that died here.

 

 

 

 

 

***WARNING. Some hard images are going to be coming next. The crematorium, gas chamber’s and execution area’s were some of the hardest parts to walk through. Even though Dachau was not intended as a death camp, many still died and executions happened and the gas chambers were used. I debated whether or not to actually post these photos. Standing there was unreal, sobering, heartbreaking, and intense. Even looking back at the pictures elicits the same reactions. This is a cemetery of sorts for so many who died here and in a way it felt wrong, BUT it is too important not to share. You have been warned.***

Some final images and remembrances to leave you as we exited the camp. Sculptures that represent the Victims and Survivors, A memorial Plaque, and the full look at the administration building turned museum.

“May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow man”

Things You Should Do and Tips For: A Stay in Berlin

Whenever we do a longer/extended trip to somewhere new I will try and try and do two separate posts, one detailing out what we did and the second detailing out things I recommend and tips that we learned. You can read about our long weekend in Berlin HERE. If you are interested in what I actually recommend you do and my tips if you decide to travel there keep reading.

Recommendations

Recommendations are easy and hard to do as each person is interested in different things and there are different factors that can play into decisions on where you go/what you do. For example, we have two very active and loud toddlers. As much as we would like to go to museums and read everything, we also don’t want to ruin the ruin anyone elses’ experience either. So, while we go to museums, we don’t go to all of them and we don’t necessarily read every single word, rather perusing them all and picking and choosing which ones to fully focus on. So, my recommendations come from a bit of a bias for what we were interested in, found interesting, and worked for our family.

Berlin is a city full of history revolving the Berlin Wall. As we are very much interested in history and artifacts/locations specific to history we stuck with the big items. I highly recommend going to the Berlin Wall Memorial and Documentation Center. They are right across the street from each other and you can get a really comprehensive look at the pre cursers to the Berlin Wall, life during the wall, and the wall coming down. There is also information on how the Documentation Center came to be and how they fought to save portions of the wall. I also highly recommend going to the East Side Gallery. This highlights the wall in a different way, showcasing beautiful works of art on a mile long piece of the mall. It is a monument in its own way and sits right along the water so after you walk along the Gallery side, you can walk back along the river. IMG_0352The last history spot I would say to go to is Checkpoint Charlie. The checkpoint itself isn’t very big and usually has quite the crowd prior to the picture actors coming out, but the museum that goes along with it is a wealth of knowledge of the escape attempts, the people on both sides, and the different tactics of the governments.

IMG_0363Another sight I would recommend going to is The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe/The Holocaust Memorial. This is one of the most sobering visual memorial I have seen as of yet to the victims of the Holocaust. It is cold and eye opening in its own way. I would only advise you to be respectful when visiting this memorial. You can walk among the slabs and while pictures are ok, don’t do anything beyond stand and smile (or walk through if you want that IG pic). Climbing, posing, being goofy, anything beyond that is beyond disrespectful and I did see a couple people doing that.

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If you are interested in animals/zoo’s (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) then I would recommend Tier Park. This is the animal park that we chose to visit rather than the Berlin Zoo. I go into our reasoning in the What We Did post, but I absolutely LOVED this place. It is so spread apart, and has more of a park feel to it than a zoo. Almost all of the exhibits are open air (save for the few that the animals may need to come in frequently) and they have some of the widest variety of animals that I’ve seen at a “zoo”.

The last three spots I will briefly touch on are Brandenburg Gate, Fernsehturm, and the Victory Column. The Brandenburg Gate is the biggest tourist spot that we visited, aside from the East Side Gallery, and it was packed both with tourists, the odd street performers, and some folks petitioning. I would recommend going just to see the massive gate, but not staying too long. The Fernsehturm is the tallest structure in Germany and it is quite impressive. You can see it all throughout the city and you are able to go up to the viewing platform (although be sure to read my tips if you want to do this). I would also highly recommend going to the top of The Victory Column. This is an open air viewing platform that you climb a lot of stairs to get to, but the view is incredible-opposite the view from Fernsehturm.

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Finally, I am going to recommend one food spot as it was one we found on Trip Advisor as a “must-go” and after having gone (twice) to it, I highly recommend it. I spoke about it in our what we did post, but it is the Zeit Fur Brot café. They make some of the best cinnamon rolls right in front of your face. It does get crowded on the weekends and the later in the morning it gets, but the wait is never long (seriously- they in and out), the staff are incredibly friendly, and the food is completely worth it.

 

Tips/Tricks

I’ve got a few tips to share with you about visiting Berlin in a tourist to tourist way. Some of these may be rather obvious and common sense, and can be applied to just regular travel, and some are specific to Berlin.

Tip #1: List your 3-5

A rather obvious tip that you can apply to any trip, but one that has been essential for us on these short whirlwind trips. We are going to be doing a lot of 4 day weekend traveling and listing out 3-5 spots that we HAVE TO see, do not want to miss, helps us stay semi on track. For us for Berlin this was Checkpoint Charlie, The Memorial, Fernsehturm, and The Berlin Wall and/or East Side Gallery. Once we arrived in Berlin, we looked at how everything was laid out and figured our days out around that making sure that we hit those spots.

Tip #2: Public Transportation (the most important tip of them all!)

Berlin has an amazing network of underground metro, streetcars, and buses that work really well for tourists. In fact, we parked our car at the hotel on Friday and didn’t touch it again until we were leaving on Monday. We relied solely on walking and public transportation and it was really easy to navigate. Depending on how long your stay is, Berlin has transport cards that you can use across all three public transport options, but if you are going for up to a week, they have a Welcome ticket that also will give you discounted tickets to some of the attractions in Berlin. It is a great option and I think this might be one of my most important tips in all of my Berlin tips.

Tip #3: Fernseturhm

If you want to go to the Fernseturhm/TV Tower then this tip is for you. First off, an obvious part, verify that you are going to have good weather for the platform. You don’t necessarily want rain (although you will still be able to see most everything) and you definitely DO NOT want fog. When we went up the fog had started to set in at the end of a very rainy day and we didn’t get to see as much as we wanted to. My other tip would be to be prepared to wait. There are some shopping centers nearby as well as the Berlin Cathedral, but if you get there at any other time than early/first thing in the morning, you will have a wait time of around 2 hours before you can go up. This is to help control the numbers of people at the top at any given time. They have a service that will text you 30 minutes prior to your number being called to go up, although we didn’t know about this until after the fact (our lack of knowledge= your gain!).

Tip #4: Off The Beaten Path

I usually suggest this with any trip, but when you are looking for food find the little hole in the wall restaurants. Yes, sometimes the bigger restaurants will speak your language, be more palatable for youngsters, and be more tourist friendly, but you’ll get a more authentic feel at the little hole in the wall spots. The bakery that we went to one morning was tiny, one table inside, two outside and had some really tasty food. The barbecue place we went to the first night was the same. Of course you can stick with the bigger options, but then you won’t be getting that full experience and that is part of the fun of travelling.

I think that pretty much sums up everything I wanted to recommend and the tips that I wanted to share! Please let me know if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them AND, if you have been to Berlin, please chime in below with any tips or recommendations you may have J

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.