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

 

Nuremberg – Day Trip #1

The last weekend in February we decided to take a little day trip over to Nuremberg. While the list of things to do in Nuremberg can be extensive (depending on your interest), we had picked out two history related places to go and check out. We figured we would spend a few hours in the city, walk around quite a bit, and then head back home. Happily, we were completely wrong.

Both my husband and I are very much interested in World War 2 history. I tend to read a lot of historical books (both fiction and non) that are based in this time period (honestly I go in between WW2 and Tudor/Elizabethan England) and my husband watches A LOT of documentaries from that time period. In fact, so much so that if you named one we’ve probably read or watched it. So, not only is being in Germany such a blessing for culture reasons, it’s also ripe with history (not only WW2, we can’t wait to explore ALL the histories that Germany has to offer).

So, on this first trip into Nuremberg (as we will be taking several) we decided to head to the Nuremberg Courthouse and the Reichsparteigelande (or the Nazi Party Rally Grounds). We figured that this would be more than enough for one day trip, and boy were we right. We started our day with a hearty hotel breakfast (seriously the food here is amazing) and then headed out to start at the Nuremberg Courthouse.

Let me start by saying that being in these spaces is incredible. I don’t know that I truly have the words to describe, but I’ll try. It is breathtaking and surreal, cool, but at the same time somber. A sobering experience to be in the same places where so much hatred was spewed and then where those same people spewing hatred were brought to justice. Standing in these same spaces that have become so entrenched in history is a completely different experience to just seeing it in a documentary. Walking through the exhibitions attached/within these spaces is full of so much information and I can say that I have come away with a whole new understanding that documentaries just can’t give.

IMG_9472For the courthouse, you are given a little handset that relays the information about the trials and the various parts of the exhibit in your native language so you can get a full understanding. Not only do the handsets detail out the rise, fall, and trials from the Nazi Party, but it also goes into testimony and audio accounts from the trial.

IMG_9457 There is something to be said for listening to the audio of the trial while sitting in the gallery of the courthouse.

The exhibition upstairs is extensive and contains artifacts, a layout of the courtroom, as well as a little mock courtroom that would show exactly what it looked like during those days (the upstairs gallery was converted to the exhibit which is the only difference).

A tip if you are going- the courthouse is still actively in use, so plan accordingly. If they are having a trial in the courtroom you will not be able to go in, but you may (or may not I’m not entirely sure) be able to peek in the upstairs windows to still see the courtroom. The cost is reasonable (especially for what you are getting), but like many other places in Germany you will want to pay in Euro.  We spent around an hour and a half at the Courthouse but could have stayed longer. If you have young toddler age children, I would recommend a)bringing a small umbrella type stroller, and b) be sparing with what you choose to listen to in the audio upstairs. The audio at the Courthouse is quite long and not all toddlers may want to stay still for the length of time that it requires. I still suggest going as you do not want to miss it.

Overall, a MUST SEE in Nuremberg.

IMG_9598Our next stop was the Reichsparteigelande. This is about a 20-minute drive from the courthouse and is truly a site to see. We started at the Documentation Center, which is the unfinished remains of the Congress Hall. The cost is incredibly reasonable and once again, you are given a headset to detail out the exhibit information in your native language. Some of the headsets have a mechanism that starts the translation of  the various videos that are shown when you walk within a certain distance of the video screen. My husband’s headset worked like this, while mine did not, so it is very hit or miss on that.

When you enter the museum and exhibit, you are walking through the very walls of the hall. That in itself is eerie, but everywhere you go there are either artifacts from his time, or from the war. The floors in the first room have boxes within them with pamphlets, war displays, and other relics. The walls are lined with information. The information is much more succinct than the Courthouse, but still just as powerful.

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As part of the exhibit you can walk a walkway out to the interior of the hall (where it was not finished). This is an overlook of the grounds that would have become the hall if completed. You are also able to walk the lower grounds when you leave the museum.

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IMG_3280Once finished with the exhibit, we headed out to walk the trail that would take us over to the main highway street, the stadium, and the parade street at Zeppelin Field. This is a very pretty, paved walkway that follows along the outer edges of a man-made lake. At each point of interest there is a large information board/sign that breaks down what you are seeing and where you are at on the route in both German and English.

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The main street is about halfway between the Congress Hall and the Parade Street/Stadium. The main street cuts through the two lakes (on each side of the street) and walking on it was another surreal experience.

Towards the end of the path around the lake you are able to enter the Parade Street at Zeppelin Field. IMG_9609

If you watch any documentaries on Hitler, this is a space that you will most likely see. It is the overlook where he would review the troops, speak to his followers, and such. Most of the parade grounds have now been converted to use in everyday activities; a soccer field, American Football field, and some other sports are played and there are carnivals, and such held all along this route. However, the original outline and different buildings/stands are still there and intact. You are able to climb up the stand and look out at the parade route in the same manner as the Nazi Party Leaders.

IMG_3365Our day ended with starting to watch the sunset on the lake, which is always a beautiful sight to see. There are a couple of restaurants and places to stop and eat nearby, but we decided to head back to the hotel as we had two very tired little boys that were reaching the end of their ropes.

A tip if you are going to make this a trip, which I highly highly think you should, make sure to wear comfortable, breathable clothing. You will be walking a few miles if you choose to go to all the spots and while the trail is paved and easy to walk, you will want to make sure that you don’t get any blisters or sore feet at the end. Along with that, an umbrella stroller or the like for younger kids is a bonus if you do not want to carry them most of the route. Our oldest ended up riding on my husband’s shoulders most of the way.

Overall, we had such a wonderful first trip into Nuremberg. There is so much to see and do that I know that we will be back to do more. When we do, I’ll do another post detailing out what we’ve seen.

Our February in Travel

So, we are living in Europe. A dream come true for both of us. We’ve got our little family of four and we planning on traveling, adventuring, as much as we can over the next few years that we are here. I am documenting these travels on Social Media, but I also wanted to have a little space for it here. While there will definitely be individual posts when we have big trips (to specific locations…e.g. London, Rome, Venice, etc.), I also wanted to talk about some of the smaller trips that we are taking. The little weekend trips to new towns, new places. The little trips that may not have enough to really devote a single post to. So…

At the end of every month I am going to do a little recap of that month in adventures. This might seem a little over the top given the Round The Kettle updates every couple weeks (those are happening again starting in March), as well as individual posts for the bigger trips, but even just the past two weeks we’ve been here I feel like there are moments to capture and lots to talk about. This whole country and area of the world are just chock full of places/things to talk about and I want to remember it all. Not every month will have a long post, or maybe even a travel post at all.


Our first weekend here we wanted to get used to driving around here as well as see some of the sights of our area. We were “fresh off the plane” so to speak and weren’t entirely sure where anything was, let alone towns, stores, or restaurants. We took a day over the weekend and drove throughout the little towns here and there, taking all of the sights in. The roads are windy, in some places tight, but overall pretty easy to navigate. Everywhere you look is a combination of old world charm with these pops of color. And clean, everything is so clean. Also, we found our first castle, which was charming and wonderful as a historical sight. We weren’t able to hike into the actual castle, but we hope to very soon as well as hope to explore other castles in our area.

Our second weekend we decided to venture first to some stores nearby, just to find out what is what. We headed to some clothing stores, grocery stores, and a local handyman store (like Home Depot). I will say- nothing is truly different from back in the states. The groceries stores are a little different and the way that they shop over here is different, but overall an easy adjustment to make.

Once we felt comfortable knowing what was around us, we ventured into the big city that was near us. This city has the local train station spot, and “old district”, several malls, and a gorgeous bridge and river. Not too mention several museums and a royal area that we cannot wait to check out next time we visit. Whenever we need “bigger” items or need to do a real shopping trip this is probably where we will head. It’s also a really pretty spot to stop at, to shop at, and to just walk around and soak in all the beauty.  Of course I located both a book store and a tea shop and made a couple of purchases :).

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On our final weekend in February, we really adventured out and headed to our first visit to Nuremberg! I think I am going to do a whole separate post on what we saw in Nuremberg (probably to be posted in the next week), but for a brief rundown we went to the Nuremberg Courthouse to view Courtroom 600, where the Nuremberg Trials were held and we headed over to Reichsparteigelande (Nazi Party Rally Grounds). Both of these were such cool, eye opening experiences. To stand where so much history has happened is something that words cannot begin to describe. It was breathtaking to say the least. Stay tuned for a full blog post and pictures coming this next week.

That was our February in travel! I hope that you enjoyed this little breakdown. Please let me know if you want me to continue to do this as a breakdown of our month with longer posts for “bigger” trips or do you want each trip to be one blog post? Let me know!