It’s all Greek to me!

When we originally started planning our last big shebang in Europe, we debated over going back to Italy or taking a trip to London.  We were fairly certain, however, that we’d take a trip to London at another point in our lives, and we knew that we’d definitely be heading back to Italy.  We needed something completely different.  Enter Greece and the island of Santorini.

Islands in the Aegean--this one's not Santorini

We took a direct flight from Nuremberg to the island, arrived at a small airport that literally only receives about 6 incoming flights a day, and hopped into a transport van.  Our driver flew around the curves of the island on the 1 1/2 car width roads, constantly beeping his horn, dodging donkeys and 4-wheelers.  We were slightly alarmed when he dropped off one of the other couples with us in the van.  He called out their hotel, “Tennis Club.”  We looked around.  Dust, brush, and a very, very old tennis court.  As we drove away, we watched the couple stand in the middle of the road, uncertain of their surroundings, and positively confused as to where they were supposed to go.  Luckily for us, when we pulled up to our hotel, I recognized it right away.

Hotel Meli Meli

Meli Meli from the back

We breathed a sigh of relief to have arrived safely and were promptly greeted by the hotel manager who showed us around and got us settled.  We spent an hour or so resting and enjoying the view into the sea.   Looking out from our hotel was amazing; only 1/3 of your field of vision was taken up by the ground and buildings.  The remaining 2/3 were filled with bright blues, either of the ocean or the sky.

The view from our terrace

Looking out from the hotel

Most visitors on the island end up renting some type of vehicle in which to get around.  Popular choices are smart cars, 4-wheelers, and scooters.  However, we knew that there was a bus stop 200 meters from our hotel.  Why rent a vehicle when the buses are that close?  We found out why.  On Santorini, the buses could be anywhere from 10 minutes early to 20 minutes late.  They only stop to pick you up when you wave to them (we found this out the hard way), and they only let you off at your stop if you tell them about it when you get on (we also found this out the hard way).  It really left us saying, “This is Greek to me!” We eventually got the hang of the system, though I think Russ always felt a little unsure. 🙂

Anyway, Santorini is one of the largest of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean sea. It is shaped like a moon with an island in the middle, the remainder of the volcanic caldera.  In the past, all of this was just one island, but after a particularly gruesome volcanic explosion, Santorini as it is today is what remains.

On the island there are really 3 main villages where tourists typically spend their time (excluding the beaches, for now): Fira, Oia, and Imerovigli.  Fira, the capital of the island, is on the western side of the island and where we headed our first night (after we figured out how to get on the bus).  Fira is the center of life on the island with shops, banks, restaurants, and an amazing view. Notable, of course, is the architecture of Santorini.  Beautiful white building hang on the sides of cliffs and blue domed churches peer out amongst them.

Church in Fira

Restaurants on the cliffs of Fira, looking out towards the caldera

Houses and hotels of Fira

After climbing higher up

view from Fira

Our view from our dinner spot

Of course one of the most popular past times on the island is watching the sunset.  I’m pretty sure we did this almost every night we were on the island; we changed vantage points, but the show was always the same.  And it was always amazing.  It’s times like these when we felt really fortunate to have been given a year abroad, when we realized that we probably never would have been able to do or see what we have been lucky enough to experience.  Watching sunsets in Greece? Not an every day event.

sunset falls

sunset in Fira

sunset from Fira

sunset over the caldera

beautiful

We spent 5 wonderful days on Santorini.  Stay tuned for the rest of our adventures and for more of Russ’s beautiful photographs!

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Water Tricks and Zoology

I’m warning you now.  If you don’t feel like looking at a bunch of animal pictures, you can opt out of this post.  But the zoo at the Hellbrunn Palace was so totally worth it, not just because of the animals, but because of its proximity to the Alps and the fact that it’s actually built into the side of a mountain.  Before we spent our afternoon and early evening animal-viewing, we spent some time at the Palace itself where we were introduced to the Prince archbishop’s trickery and deception–water-style.

The Palace itself is named for the clear spring that feeds the palace and surrounding fountains.  Rumor has it that on warm summer days, the prince-archbishop would gather his friends in the gardens, lure them toward his various fountains and grottos, and soak them thoroughly.

Hellbrunn Palace

The start of the fountain grounds

We don’t have very many pictures of the gardens.  As soon as Russ found out that random guests would at times receive a very soggy welcome, his camera went into hiding.  Regardless, it was fun watching all the kids and “brave Americans” on the tour get targeted by our tour guide and squeal with laughter when water undoubtedly shot from some unidentifiable area.

One great area was the bishop’s table, a stone table set up in the garden where the head of the house often dined with his guests.  At some point during their visit, water would shoot out from the middle of the table and from the back of the guests’ chairs, soaking everyone, except for the dry princebishop, of course.

Hellbrunn Trick Table-picture borrowed from http://www.kaprunerhof.at/hellbrunn-palace-salzburg

At other times we were led into grottos or told to stand on staggered steps to view a puppet show propelled by water.  It’s an uneasy feeling, knowing that there will be water coming from somewhere but not knowing where or when it could get you.  In some cases, the water shot out from behind you, from the floor, or from the sides of the walls.  No one was safe. It was fun!  Russ and I almost made it through the entire display.  Right at the end, however, I got sprayed right in the thigh.  It was after one of those relief-filled moments when I thought I was in the clear.  Then….wet.  It felt like one of those slow-motion sequences in movies when someone gets shot.  Almost made it!

Russ's camera makes a reappearance...far away from the trick fountains

After enjoying the tour, we headed over the Salzburg Zoo, a quick 5 minute walk from the Hellbrunn Palace.  First of all, let me just say that I love zoos.  No one has to convince me to go to one, but the incentive to visit becomes even higher when the zoo is surrounded by scenery like this:

View from Salzburg Zoo

Love the parrots in the foreground of the mountains

Beauty

We had a fantastic time walking around and enjoying both the scenery and the animals.  I’ll share some of our favorites below. By the way, the safety fences and guard rails at the zoo are definitely a bit more lax than US standards!

Brown Bear

 

House mouse and House Rat exhibit

There's very little perspective for how small this guy actually is, but think "ping-pong ball"

 

"Do you understand 'wolf-speak'?" We liked this one because it clearly identifies our shy pups

Flip up the poster and read about what the position of the animal means:

"I don't have anything to say," submission, anxiety. And beside that, "I want to play!"

I can't get over it.

Don't pet the monkeys!

This little dude was sitting right over us as we went through the monkey house

Nice view, monkey.

Big Kitty

Lynx

Giant cat with giant bone...glad there's a fence

Red Panda...Russ's Favorite

We had a really fantastic visit to Salzburg and feel really lucky that we made it there before our travels end.  By the way, as of today, I only have one month left to live European-style.  A sense of bittersweetness is starting to invade all of our travels.  For now, though, we’ll enjoy every second we have left…especially our upcoming travels to the Greek island of Santorini!

Salzburg

 

 

The moon rises over Salzburg

 

To check out all of Russ’s photos from our Salzburg weekend: http://rlabarca.smugmug.com/Travel/Salzburg-June-2011

 

And a final note: If any of you painters out there (ahem, Aunt Maryanne) feel compelled to paint any of these beautiful images that we’re showing you, we won’t claim copyright. 🙂

 

The Hills are Alive in Salzburg

 

This past holiday weekend (Whit Monday), we headed to the famous hills of Salzburg for a long weekend.  Yes, we did sit down and watch The Sound of Music before embarking on our journey.  2 hrs in, Russ was begging for mercy.  It did help him, however, understand what all those other crazy American tourists were talking about. 🙂  Needless to say, we did not take the Sound of Music Tour that ushers you to well-known destinations from the movie…between what I can imagine is loud, joyous, (and thoroughly American) sing-a-longs of “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” and “16 Going on 17.”

On Saturday it rained.  And rained.  And rained.  We hadn’t arrived til later in the afternoon (around 4), so we figured we’d walk around for the evening, maybe hit up a Mozart museum, have some dinner, and call it a night.  When we arrived at the first Mozart museum, The Mozart Family Residence, it was closing in an hour.  Not enough time.  That’s when we really looked at our list of activities–EVERYTHING closed at 5:30.  We hustled to the lesser-reputed Mozart Museum, the Birth-house, and found that the hour we had left was plenty of time to work our way through the exhibits there.

Mozart's Geburtshaus

Afterwards we toured the cathedral, the Salzburger Dom. The dome itself was replaced in 1959, years after a WWII bomb had dropped right through.  The church itself is massive and quite beautiful, though seemingly plain from the outside.  Inside, there are stucco and paintings everywhere, and the organs are massive.  Mozart himself played in this cathedral for a few years.

Salzburger Dom

Another view of the cathedral--obviously taken the next day

After seeing the cathedral, we sought out some dinner and a café for some coffee and a piece of cake.  The town seemed throughout closed.  When we finally found a café and happily got out of the rain, the proprietor told us that they were closing in 15 minutes!  It was 7:00 PM.  Eventually we did find a great cup of coffee and a slice of Sachertorte, after which we decided to call it a night and hope for better skies tomorrow.

 

AND THEY WERE!

The Austrian flag

Amazingly, with a little more sunshine and slightly drier pavement, Salzburg came alive.  Restaurants set up their outdoor seating and while all shops weren’t open (it was Sunday), it was obvious that Salzburg is actually a living, breathing town.  We headed to the historic old town and hit up some of the sights we missed on Saturday.

Streets of Salzburg

McDonald's Salzburg-style

Mozart's Residence

We went back to Mozart’s Residence and toured through there with an audio guide.  It was interesting, but there’s something about audio guides that Russ and I really dislike.  Is it the fact that anyone could have had this up to his/her ear before me?  No, pretty sure it’s how whenever someone uses an audio guide, they immediately can’t seem to watch where they’re going.  😉

Next,we headed toward Mirabell Palace to check out the gardens and get some of the fresh mountain air.

Mirabell Gardens

 

Mirabell Gardens

The Gardens with a view of the Palace

SOM trivia question 1: Name the scene where the Pegasus statue was featured.

Cool View up to the Fortress--Our Next Destination

After enjoying the flowers in the gardens, we wanted to take advantage of the clear skies and get to the highest vantage point in case the sunshine was only temporary.  The Fortress, seated 400 ft. above the river, watches over the town of Salzburg.  It’s always done a pretty good job, too; it prevented anyone from attacking the town for about a thousand years.

At the top there are several museums and some spectacular views of the city below.

Approaching the Fortress

Salzburg and the River Salzach

Good View of the Dom

From the Fortress Tower

"Oh, Mother. I just couldn't help myself. The gates were open and the hills were beckoning and everything was so green and fresh, and the Untersberg kept leading me higher and higher, as if it wanted me to go right through the clouds with it."

Gorgeous

Looking toward the rest of the fortress

More of the Fortress

Russ in Salzburg

 

When we weren’t taking the views, we spent the rest of our time at the top of Salzburg going through several of the museums; we started with the Fortress museum, where we got access to the top of the towers, and then headed to the creepiest museum of all.  The Marionettes. Russ took no pictures of the Marionette exhibits, I suppose for fear that they’d come alive at night?

I tried my hand at the art

 

Creepy.

Instead of taking the funicular down the hill, we decided to walk and get some more great views of the town.

Funicular

Heading down the mountain

Approaching the Dome

Our dining spot from Saturday night--and Russ's favorite beer. Don't tell Germany!

Aaaand we made it!

I exaggerate.  It really wasn’t a very long walk.  However, we were feeling pretty grateful when the people climbing up the hill were passing up, sweating and panting.  Our all-inclusive Salzburg card turned out to be quite the bargain. 🙂

There’s more to Salzburg and more to our Sunday, but I’m saving it for another post.  Next time look forward to Hellbrunn Castle and Prince-Archbishop Sittikus’s famous trick fountains. Oh, and a really really cool trip to the Salzburg Zoo. 🙂

 

 

What do you associate with Amsterdam??

My absolute favorite quote to sum up our time in Amsterdam was said by someone who didn’t even accompany us.

“French fries, Heineken, red lights, pancakes and “coffee shops” … And that’s all in one photo!”               (Thanks, Uncle D. ;))

Amsterdam City Street

Amsterdam usually holds some pretty strong associations for people.  In other words, its reputation proceeds it.  It’s the combination of all the aforementioned items along with the history and architecture that makes Amsterdam such a thoroughly awesome place to visit.

Luckily we could share this experience with brother, Nate,  and sister-in-law, Hayley, as a stop on their European vacation.  In the midst of their city-hopping (literally–from Madrid, to Paris, to Rome, to Venice, to Barcelona…)…they ended up in Heidenheim.  We spent a couple nice days relaxing, took a bike ride through the German countryside (with a stop at a Biergarten, natürlich), explored the castle, and ate some delicious meals at the local favorite biergarten.

Nate and Hayley in Heidenheim

On the 3rd day of their visit, we hopped a plane to the capital of The Netherlands for a nice 3-day holiday weekend.  One of the most interesting things about Amsterdam are all the canals running through the city.  Nicknamed, “the Venice of the North,” the city of Amsterdam originally built the canals in the 1600’s, it seems, as a means of handling a high level of immigration into the city and thus aiding residential development; the canals also provided a small means of defense.

Amsterdam Canal

Residential Buildings built alongside the Canal

Bustling Amsterdam

Nowadays because of a housing shortage (and because people are crazy??), there are a lot of houses…on the water.  Houseboats line many of the canals.  It was quite interesting to see the elaborate get-ups of some houses and the decrepit status of others.  Lots of people spent time sunning on their boats or, in the evening, sitting on their “decks,” watching over the canals, and sipping a drink of their choice.

Houseboats

Houseboat on the right

The first thing we did when we arrived in Amsterdam was head to the Anne Frank House.  Unfortunately no pictures were permitted, so there are none to document the museum.  Going through the house, though, was quite an experience.  Anne Frank’s Diary is a memoir that I think almost everyone has read in school or otherwise.  It’s also a story that people don’t tend to forget given that the truth of what was happening to Jewish people was told through the eyes of a young girl who should have been running outside, playing, and growing up instead of silently huddled in hiding to escape persecution.  The story resonates, but the sad truth of it all really comes to light when touring the house.  Actually seeing where there were 8 people in hiding, tip-toeing, restricting water usage, blocking out the windows and living without light; viewing the steep staircase where several workers risked their lives and the lives of their families to bring the Frank family food and supplies; walking underneath the bookcase that doubled as a door to the Frank hideout; it all seems even more despairing when seeing it in person.  Eventually the Frank’s were betrayed and were sent to various internment camps.  Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was the only survivor.  The Anne Frank House is not a happy place; it seems to exist outside the realm of all the other frivolities available in Amsterdam.  But it is incredibly important to take time and remember.

On to a lighter note….BEER.

Heineken everywhere!

Heineken!  Everywhere!  Heineken actually has a museum in Amsterdam that isn’t even called a museum; it’s an “experience.”  So, we took the bait and headed toward the Heineken Experience.

Nate and Hayley--Heineken Experience

The “Experience” included a tour of the history of Heineken, a look at the brewing methods, a taste of barley and water (without the hops), a 4-D ride where you yourself get “brewed” into beer, a tasting of the finished stuff, and 2 free beers.

Copper Kettles

Hayley cooks the barley

Looks....delicious?

Oh! And there were Heineken horses. This one's "Gerard"

Nate and Russ wait for the 4-D Ride

Let's be real, I didn't drink that. I hate beer.

See that Pepsi in the background? Yep, that's mine.

Unfortunately for Heineken and their “experience,” sacrilegious discussion was held at the table while drinking Heineken beer.  It kind of went like this,

“You know what?  I hate Heineken.”

“Yeah, it’s really not good at all.”

I think that is probably not what Heineken is trying to accomplish when offering up the “experience.” 😉

Ok, so what you’ve all been waiting for…the Red Light District. Yes, Amsterdam is just as advertised. Lots of “coffee shops,” lots of debauchery, lots of prostitutes.  We spent some daylight and some night hours touring the Red Light District.  (Ok, perhaps gawking is a more appropriate word?).  The street is, as advertised, lined with red lights and windows of scantily-clad women trying to get your attention.  Awkwardness ensues when they rap on the glass to get your attention.  Well, unless you’re looking for that kind of thing.  Plenty people were.  When they found what they were looking for, a curtain was pulled closed.  There are no pictures of the actual windows; the working women do not appreciate that.  But there were plenty of lurkers hanging around, plenty of smoke pouring out of surrounding cafés, and plenty of awkward eye contact.  ::look away::

Entering the Red Light District

Red Light

Red Light by Daylight

Russ finds it amusing to steathily capture a man in negotiations

We had a fantastic time in Amsterdam with Nate and Hayley!  I’ll share some more of my favorite pictures from our weekend below.  The rest you can check out on Russ’s photo website, as always.

In front of the Museum Quarter

Train Station

Superb 3-course dinner spot

Typical Pic

Tulip Markets

Venice of the North

along one the canals

Nate and Hayley--Sunset in Amsterdam

Lauren and Russ--sunset in Amsterdam

Goodnight, Amsterdam

 

To see more pictures of our trip to Amsterdam, please visit:

http://rlabarca.smugmug.com/Travel/Amsterdam-June-2011/17384360_NWJv6z#1321487253_ww9QHPx

 

Historical Friedrichshafen

The town of Friedrichshafen, along the Bodensee, provides for beautiful views.  Tourists, residents, and avid bikers can use Friedrichshafen as a home base and catch ferries to Switzerland, Austria, or any of the islands in the Bodensee.  It has a port for boatmen and some coastline available where eager water-lovers can swim, play, or just dip their toes.  See below:

The Rocky Beach at Friedrichshafen

Preparing for a quick dip

It's not easy to balance on slimy, wet rocks

Mom looking pretty relaxed

Along with the obvious other attractions like dining along the lake:

Lakeside Eateries

Or climbing the viewing tower:

Viewing Tower

Friedrichshafen happens to be an integral place in Germany’s history.  Mainly because of these:

Zeppelin sighting!

At the end of the 19th century, the first dirigible factory was built in Friedrichshafen by Ferdinand von Zeppelin.  Today, Friedrichshafen has a great museum dedicated entirely to the technology, history, and economics of Zeppelins.  In fact, the first Zeppelin ever flown was flown over the Bodensee in July 1900.

Zeppelin Museum, Friedrichshafen, Germany

Zeppelins were originally used as a form of travel for high-class passengers.  The museum contains a 33-meter replica of a Zeppelin used for passenger travel.  We were able to walk through hallways, see bedrooms and bathrooms, explore the lounge with windows looking to the outside of the airship, and we even saw the smoking lounge.  For pity’s sake, who thought it was a good idea to have a smoking lounge on an airship that runs on volatile gases??

Sleeping Quarters

Russ spies on me from the lounge while I check out the view outside of the airship

We also got to check out the support-structure of the Zeppelin.

Hello, back there, smoking lounge.

Zeppelin Support Structure

The frame itself was made out of some metal alloy and the cover was a sewn-together conglomeration of fabrics like linen.  The rigidness provided by the frame allowed the airship to be larger, carry a much large capacity, and hold several fuel cells (hydrogen or helium held in bags made of cow intestines, mmm).

I just want to take a minute to say how crazy I think people were to fly on Zeppelins, considering how often they were damaged or caught fire.  In one of the better instances in which the Zeppelin was being flown to promote flying for entertainment, it landed in the boughs of trees, and all the passengers had to disembark via ladder.  Giant, over-sized balloon that’s difficult to control and often catches fire.  Wanna ride?? Umm, no thanks.  Despite the fantastic looking smoking lounge.

SPilot's Log--"Ship Smashed to Hell. Both engines out. Landing Smashed all Undercarriage."

Obviously Zeppelins were not only used for travel but were often used in the military as well.  At first, their use was primarily for spying, as the ships were virtually undetectable by in-advanced wartime radar because of their curved and smooth shape.  During WWI, Zeppelins were often used to bomb London.  Zeppelins were not ideal for this job, however, as they were often restricted by weather and were more often than not inaccurate.

British ad warning school children about Zeppelin sightings

After Germany lost the war, the Treat of Versailles conditioned that the air force of Germany was to keep nothing, airships included.  The Germans were required to take any and all remaining dirigibles, fill them with the appropriate gases, and deliver them to the Allies.  They were also expected to transfer housing and repair facilities as well as the plant that was used to manufacture hydrogen gas.

in the 1920’s, airship production started again with the focus on international and world travel.  The most famous airship of the time, the Graf Zeppelin, transported passengers and mail back and forth from the United States to Europe.  The airship functioned largely this way until the Nazis gained power in Germany during 1933.  Recognizing that the airships were really no good for combat, the presiding party focused on using Zeppelins as a way to spread propaganda.

German Nazi Airship--picture from enciclopedia.com.pt

Often times these airships would fly over Germany playing nationalistic songs or even broadcasting speeches from the heads of the Nazi party.

And of course when everyone thinks of Zeppelins, they think of the famous Hindenburg, the largest airship that was ever flown, caught fire, and killed almost half of the passengers inside, thousands of spectators standing by.  The Hindenburg was fatally flawed by the use of hydrogen gas, much more flammable than helium.  Because of the war, however, helium was not available, and so, the decision was made to conduct the journey anyway.

Catastrophe in Lakehurst

After the Hindenburg disaster, airships were flown less frequently, and finally ordered to be halted during the beginning of WWII.  What was left of the airships burnt in a fire at the Zeppelin facility, and the production of Zeppelins was quickly over.

The museum was really interesting and provided a great background to the setting of Friedrichshafen.  I really appreciated how frequently they presented information in multiple languages.  Though the descriptions on the displays were strictly in German, touch-screen computers were available in every section of the museum; these computers contained all the reading material necessary to understand the displays in the language of your choice.  It doesn’t always happen that we run into museums so nicely set up for an international crowd.

Oh, and I better throw one of these pictures in for Russ:

engine.

Island Hopping on Easter

On Easter Sunday while my mom was visiting, we took another boat ride across the Bodensee.  This time our destination was Mainau Island–the island of flowers!

On Easter morning, we woke up to some rain showers and were pretty worried about our trek across the lake.  We were instantly cheered when we went down to the breakfast room, and at each place lay a vibrantly dyed Easter egg and a few bunny-shaped chocolates, too!  It was absolutely a welcome surprise.  I guess the Easter bunny can find you anywhere, can’t he? 😉

Our fantastic hotel--Hotel Waldhorn

As we drove into Friedrichshafen (our hotel was just slightly outside of the city), the skies began to clear a little.  It wasn’t perfect, but as long as it wasn’t raining, we’d take it!

Friedrichshafen--a daunting sky

Nonetheless, we shoved off (is that the correct boating term?) and enjoyed the 1 1/2 journey to Mainau Island with some stops along the way to pick up more passengers.

Departing Friedrichshafen with an already better-looking sky

Small stop in Immenstaad and some other places

And then….

Arriving

Warm welcome to the flowering island of Mainau

This island, it its entirety, is owned by the family of a Count who was at once time a Prince in Sweden. The island is notable for a few things: the abundance of flowers, the variety of plant species, the views from the island, and the tropical houses, one of which holds butterflies.  Mom and I enjoyed imagining actually owning this place, and after all the crowds dissipated, just going for a stroll through all of the gardens…which you own…because the entire island is yours.  Crazy!

Tulips Galore!

The Castle Overlooking the Rest of the Island

Admittedly, Russ going to Mainau Island is a little bit like me going to a car museum.  We agree to do it, enjoy looking around and taking in the big picture, but when your travel partners need to stop at every single plaque (or in this case, plant), it gets a little annoying.  Despite all this, Russ did a fine job putting up with our “ooohing” and “aaahing.”  🙂

One section of the island was titled, “Rhododendron Row.”  The sheer number of Rhododendrons (over 200 varieties) and the height of the plants was astonishing.  Unfortunately, only some of them were in bloom at the time.  One more week, or maybe two, and the whole row would have been on fire with bright pinks and purples!

Mom and her favorite Rhododendron

Rhododendron Row--you have to use your imagination!

and because I match!

The tulips!  Oh, the tulips!!

Tulips

Check it out--feathered!

Incredible Height!

Fire?

Beautiful!

He's not so bad, either! 😉

Pam and Lauren--Mainau Island

Mainau Peacock

And Duck Pond!

And, well, I don't really know what to call that.

The island also had an amazing variety of roses.  Obviously, it’s not rose season in Germany (except for in green houses), so we didn’t get to see any of the roses in bloom.  But, hey, they have to have something to show off when all these tulips are finished blooming, right?

After a drink and a bratwurst, we decided it was time to head to the Schmetterlingshaus.  Butterflies!

Russ made me do this in order to go into the butterfly house

Walking through the rowws of gigantic trees (including some Redwoods) to get to the butterflies

Schmetterlings!

It was crowded.  It was hot.  Like, really, really hot.  Rainforesty.  Russ wandered off on his own course while Mom and I stuck together, and after getting accustomed to the heat, we really enjoyed spotting exotic types on flowers and watching the shades of the butterfly wings change to match that of the plant on which they alighted.  Nonetheless, we weren’t the ones with the camera (how do you photograph butterflies, anyway?), so the pictures you see are obviously from Russ’s journey.

Camoflauge 101

These bright blue butterflies constantly swooped down over the heads of observers

How many butterflies are in this picture?

Check out that body and those cacoons!

Wingspan

Obviously, photographing butterflies is difficult.  It’s even more difficult when the place is filled with people.  And even more difficult when you’re worried about the humidity affecting the camera (which Russ never actually said, but I can read his mind).  The most beautiful butterflies were usually the less stationary, but it was a really cool thing to experience.  Not to mention that the outside air felt really good after we were done!

We ended our time on the island with a walk toward the castle where the big trees were showcased.

Giant Tree on Mainau

Redwood

Cool view up through the Redwood

The weirdest tree...almost like a cactus!

Approaching the Castle

The Castle

Easter Eggs!

Fun!

A Peek out to the Lake

Looking out towards the boarding dock

We had a fantastic time on the island!  After arriving back at Friedrichshafen, we wandered around for a little bit, but ultimately headed back to the hotel.  The Waldhorn has a fantastic restaurant with outdoor seating.  We ate there twice and enjoyed some of the best German cuisine we’ve had since living here!  Definitely a memorable Easter Sunday. 🙂

Island Hopping

I just realized that I’ve been using the word “hopping” a lot lately.  Despite the overuse, because we were so close to Easter while island “hopping” and we actually “hopped” on Easter itself, I’m leaving it.  Nonetheless, one of the islands we hopped to on the Bodensee was the beautiful Insel Lindau.  In my mind, Lindau is the perfect little place.  It is small enough to be able to walk around the entire island; there are ample opportunities to take out boats, both large and small; it has a fantastic pedestrian shopping area…and then, of course, there’s these:

Beauty in Lindau

Alps via Lindau Insel

Aside from wandering around in Lindau and pursuing water-sports, there’s not a whole lot to do aside from sitting along the water at the harbor, watching boats come in, eating Bavarian cuisine, having a glass of wine, and welcoming the sunset.  Totally okay with me.  So okay with me that we did it twice–once with the LaBarcas and again when Pam came a couple weeks later.  The pictures below are a mishmash from our time on the island during both of the visits, and I’ll try to explain what is what in captions.

Lunch on the Island with Mom

Introducing Pig Knuckle

Ordering “Schweine Hax’n” or “pig knuckle” really seemed like a good idea at the time.  After all, while Joe&Kate were here, Joe really really really wanted one, and we couldn’t find it anywhere.  So when I saw it on the menu, I felt like I had to order it to rub it in, make Joe  jealous, pay homage to my father-in-law. 😉  After two bites, it didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.  I mean, seriously, it’s just a huge, honking piece of meat.  It wasn’t too long before I gazed longingly at Russ’s chicken and imploringly asked my loving husband if he wanted to “switch for awhile” aka “can you please deal with this enormous hunk of meat?”

Zeppelin sighting in Lindau

Cute Hotel with Mom LaBarca

The Rathaus, city hall

Beautiful Flowers

Pedestrian Shopping/Eating Area

Wisteria-covered Houses

Pretty shot, Joe 🙂

The best part of the island was definitely the Harbor.  It seemed to hold most of the action of the town, and it was the best place to relax, grab a bite, and view the mountains. Boats announce their presence by blaring their horns, and they pull in between the lighthouse and the Bavarian Lion to dock.

Dinner Spot with the LaBarcas

Traditional Bavarian Fare

Lindau Harbor

The Harbor at Lindau

The Bavarian Lion

Sunset on the Island

Tranquility at its finest!  And a fantastic place to share with our family. 🙂