Posts Tagged ‘castles’

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.



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."


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



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


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. 🙂




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….


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!!


Check it out--feathered!

Incredible Height!



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


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!


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


Cool view up through the Redwood

The weirdest tree...almost like a cactus!

Approaching the Castle

The Castle

Easter Eggs!


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. 🙂

Winter oder Frühjahr?

Well it isn’t quite spring yet here in Southern Germany, but for a while it felt like it.

Before we went to the US for Christmas, Heidenheim looked like this:


It felt like winter, which felt right.  When we came back from the US, it looked about the same, but it warmed slightly, which led to rain, then an overnight freeze turned the sidewalks into a giant ice rink! 

Lauren attempts to walk downtown without falling.

Still plenty of snow and ice on the ground.

Luckily this was over a holiday, so while it stifled our travel plans, at least Russ didn’t have to try walking or driving to work.  It took us an hour to walk downtown, turn around, and come back.  But we made it without falling!

Then, a week later, temperatures were near 10°C (50°F) and we barely needed a sweatshirt outside.  Nice day to walk up to the castle!


Supposed to start cooling down again soon, so it’s back to winter.  But it was a nice preview of spring while it lasted!

Welcome, Uncle Daryl!!

Last week we had a very special visitor–Uncle Daryl!!  He had been on a business trip in London and was able to get away to enjoy Switzerland and Italy, and then Germany and Czech Republic in a whirlwind.  He accomplished something like 6 countries in 5 days!!

We were so glad to have him here, to show off our little city, and then to travel to unknown territories (Prague!) with him.  On the first day we spent time touring Heidenheim, hiking the castle, and doing some shopping.  We then went to our favorite dinner spot, Stattgarten, for some Deutsch Essen. 

Daryl and Castle View in Heidenheim

In Front of Lauren's Favorite Building

Spilled My Purse, Just Like the Fountain Lady and Her Dumplings

Clearly, this latest photographic masterpiece came straight from the magical advertising mind of Daryl.  I wouldn’t embarrass myself in my own home town for just anyone!

The River Brenz--Hence the city name, Heidenheim an der Brenz

On Thursday while Russ was at work and having conquered Heidenheim in the requisite half day, Daryl and I decided to take a train to Munich.  On the way there we found a quiet compartment all to ourselves.  This enabled the learning to begin–Daryl’s acquisition of basic German.  I think it could be an excellent business prospect.  “Visiting Germany?  Need to Know the Basics?  We’ll teach you in the time it takes to get to your destination…”  Regardless, he accomplished numbers, days of the week, and even dabbled in translating an advertisement. 

Our Private Compartment--Teachers' Lounge?

Munich Rathaus (Town Hall)

Rathaus--Just Missed the Playing of the Glockenspiel


We only had a short time in Munich and we wanted to get out to the Palace, so we took a Hop On/Hop Off bus to see more of the city.  The Nymphenburg Palace was built in the Baroque style during the 1700’s.  It is quite expansive, elaborately decorated, and maintains a beautiful green park of almost 500 acres. 

Nymphenburg Palace

Nymphenburg Palace-Front

Inside the Palace

We enjoyed the scenery and the paintings, but without tour or audio-listening device, we turned to ourselves for a slight bit of entertainment. 

Mirror Art? One in a Series of Many. Too Many.

We enjoyed our time in Munich, but it was time to head home.  I had already skipped German class for the evening, plus we had to get home to have dinner with Russ.  Turns out we ended up eating at Roma, our favorite Italian place nearby, and were joined by TWO friendly and furry creatures.  Here they are:

Furry Friend #1

Maybe-Not-So-Furry-Friend #2


Stay Tuned for Prague!

Visiting Nürnberg!

This past weekend we embarked upon a trip to Nürnberg (English spelling: Nuremberg).  Nürnberg is only about 1 1/2 hrs. drive north of us, so it was perfect for a Saturday outing.  I also must mention that it was hot!  Friday through Sunday we had sun in southern Germany; it felt amazing, like summer should!  Needless to say, we’re back to rain today. 😛

In Nürnberg there is a lot to see.  It’s an interesting city because while most of it was destroyed by bombing during WWII and rebuilt to be modern, there are still parts that are of the medieval times.  One of the main places Lauren wanted to check out was the “Handwerkerhof.”  The Handwerkerhof is a preserved section of the city that has specialized crafts and hand-created arts such as hand-carved pewter, toys, glass blown objects, etc.  The best part is that it has maintained its old charm.

The entrance to the Handwerkerhof

In the Handwerkerhof


A Serious Tourist Trap--but neat, nonetheless

From the Handwerkerhof (we escaped without purchasing anything!), we headed to the other sites of the city.  Nürnberg has many, many elaborate churches.  Most of the churches suffered significant damage during WWII and have been rebuilt according to their original styles (Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque…please don’t ask me which is which).  Some of the original churches were converted to Protestantism during the Reformation.

Lorezkirche--Gothic style, built in the late 13th Century

Lorenzkirche--restored after WWII

Frauenkirche--this church was actually built in the 14th Century to replace a synagogue that had been intentionally torn down

Sebalduskirche--Romanesque combined with Gothic style. This church contains the bones of the patron saint, St. Sebald, who died in Nuremberg before 1070.We really got a kick out of all the fountains in Nürnberg. Not only where there a lot, but they were elaborate and some of them were downright weird! One fountain depicted many different characters. As we got closer, we realized how strange the characters were...Lauren enjoyed this fat lady gorging herself on cake

Around the other side were skeletons strangling each other...

Overall, very strange and ornate

The next fountain we saw was the famous Schöner Brunner (literally, Beautiful Fountain).  The fountain is shaped like a Gothic church spire and has 40 sculptured figures that reflect the view of the Holy Roman Empire–philosophy and the 7 liberal arts; the 4 Evangelists and four Church Fathers; the seven electors and Nine Worthies; and Moses and the 7 prophets.  Within the wrought iron lies a fabled brass ring.  This brass ring is supposed to bring luck to any who touch it.  Unfortunately there were so many tours and tourists around that neither of of us got our hands on it.  It’s okay; we’ve been pretty lucky lately, anyway.

The Beautiful FountainA Close Up of the Beautiful Fountain

After walking around for a few hours, we were hungry!  It was time for us to indulge in some of the famous Nürnberger specialties.  Well, it’s no surprise that another city special involves Bratwurst.  The Nürnberger, however, is so specific to Nürnberg that if other places serve it, they have to change the name.  Really, though, it’s pretty simple and quite delicious.  So for two Euros each, we got these:

The Nürnberger--3 small sausages in a roll

We also picked up some fresh Lebkuchen from a stand at the outdoor market.  Lebkuchen is a delicious gingerbread cake that Nürnberg is also famous for and is especially popular throughout their Christmas markets.  We brought that home to enjoy.
The last sites of the day were also neat.  We visited the beautiful castle and enjoyed the view down over the city…

Castle Nuremberg

Inside the Castle Grounds

Royalty in the Castle?

Castle Tunnel

We saw the Executioner’s House.  Because this job was necessary but thought of to be evil, the Executioner lived in a house over the river where he was generally isolated from society.  We really wanted to go down in the dungeons and cellars of Nürnberg, but you can only have admittance with a guided tour–unfortunately all the tours are in German, and we’re just not that good yet. 🙂

The Executioner's House

Executioner's House

We finished our day with dinner at the LiteraturHaus Cafe.  Nürnberg is really a beautiful city, and we can’t wait to go back to the Christmas Markets!

Russ in Nürnberg

Russ and Lauren at Castle Nürnberg

More pictures:

Anniversary Weekend–Day 2

Sunday morning held even cooler temperatures and off and on appearances of the sun.  We had a quick breakfast and started our ascent to the Hohenschwangau castle, the one that Ludwig built for his parents.  This climb was not nearly as long.  You can take a slightly inclined path and walk for 20 minutes or an all-step, straight-up, no-nonsense path that takes 5 minutes.  We were champs and did the steps. 

We spent some time walking around all the different levels of the castle, though we did not sign up for a tour of the inside.  We liked this castle because it had so many marks of Bavaria on it as well as a giant swan on top of the castle that was illuminated at night.

After looking around the outsides of the castle, we decided to head toward the Alpensee, the beautiful lake that is situated in Hohenschwangua.  The lake is so striking because of its color, a turqois-blue that is characteristic of all the Alpine lakes and is due to mineral deposits. 

Since she saw the horses at the beginning of the weekend, Lauren was concerned about their treatment. (Were they rested?  How many times a day did they have to make the climb up the hill?  Were they rotated in and out?) Finally, though, as anyone could have predicted, she gave into her instincts and spent some time with the horses.  It was inevitable.

After seeing the Hohenschwangua castle and the Alpensee, we decided to head home because we had exhausted the town’s sites (and the weather did not convince us to try hiking).  Lauren paid 30 cents to use the WC and 1 1/2 hours later, with a speed of 200 kph touched on the Autobahn, we were back in Heidenheim. 

We ended our anniversary weekend with a lovely dinner on the terrace of a local Italian restaurant called “La Piazza.” 

1 year down, many more to come!

View more pics:

Neuschwanstein Castle–Anniversary Weekend Day 1

To celebrate our 1st annivesary (Wow!) we planned a trip to see the most famous castle in all of Germany–Neuschwanstein. Unless you’ve been there, you’ve probably never heard of this castle. However, this castle was the inspiration for the design of the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Everything we read about this place was amazing; it seemed to be a quaint German town in Bavaria but with the romanticism of 2 looming castles (The other castle which is named after the town, Hohenschwangua, is quite impressive as well). A perfect spot, indeed, to celebrate an annivesary.

When we arrived we realized that our weekend wasn’t exactly going to be the peaceful retreat we had in mind. There were so many tourists and tourist buses infiltrating the town that it was difficult to even reach the hotel. Lauren had to peel Russ’s white knuckles from the steering wheel upon arrival. (Ok, maybe this is a tad bit exaggerated).

We stood in line for half an hour or so to get our tickets to go up to the castle with an English tour guide. Because we had a few hours to kill before we began our uphill trek, we decided to have lunch. No sooner did we sit under a protective covering than the skies let loose. We smiled at each other; we couldn’t have timed that more perfectly, we snickered! Or so we thought…

Move forward to castle climb. We gave ourselves an hour to get up the hill because the suggested hike time is 45 minutes. Some people took buses, others chose horse-drawn carriages, but still a significant amount of people walked, even this kid who is spotting the lederhosen we hope to have our soon-to-be-born nephew wearing.

The walk was nice. We got a great breeze and eventually came upon this.

It’s truly hard to appreciate the size of the castle through the pictures. As we approached, we got too close to encompass the full castle in the camera, so we figured that after the tour we’d climb to a spot that’s further away to try to get it all in one shot. This place is called “Mary’s Bridge” or “Marien Bruecke.” For now, though, we practiced taking in the view and saying, “Good morning, my kingdom” as if we were crazy King Ludwig II himself.

They restrict you from taking pictures inside the castle, so here are a few more of the outside for your viewing pleasure.

It turns out that very few rooms of the castle were actually finished. Part of that was because Ludwig was building several castles all over Bavaria (including Castle Hohenschwangua which he built for his parents) and had basically eaten up all of his funds by doing so. Top officials in the government thought he was crazy for doing this, convinced doctors to deem him unfit to serve, and ousted him from office. The next day Ludwig II was found dead. Mysterious, eh?

Anyway, we started to head here:

It was only slightly disconcerting that on our climb our view of the castle was this…

Then this…

At this point, it maybe should have been our clue to turn around, give up our mission, and get somewhere safe. But surely, it rained earlier in the day and we had missed it! We trekked on. Was it worth it?

Our view from Mary’s Bridge:

Seconds after appearing on the bridge, it began to pour. Thunder cracked, lightning struck, and we had at least 1.5 Kilometers to walk to somewhere dry. At first we tried waiting it out under our umbrellas. I mean, really, how long could it rain for this hard? Unfortunately for us the answer ended up being “all night.”

The damage even though we each had our own umbrella:

The picture hardly does this justice; as Russ puts it, “Our faces and the tops of our heads stayed very dry.” 🙂

Unfortunately we were forced to stay in our hotel room for the rest of the evening, aside from venturing out for dinner. The main attractions in Hohenschwangua are viewing the castles and the hiking…we could do neither. Our room was nice, though. We had occasional views of the castles when fog cleared and Russ got to set up his tri-pod and shoot night shots through the rain. All in all, an eventful and fun day. 🙂