Posts Tagged ‘Pam and Will’

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

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:



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. 🙂

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. 🙂


While Mom and Dad were here, we decided that we wanted to take a long weekend and go on a trip.  Mom and Dad started their trip in Switzerland, were headed to Austria, Switzerland, and a little bit of Italy after they were leaving us, so we decided to head to Berlin, Deutschland’s capital.

Russ took Friday off, so we began our long drive around 9:30 in the morning.  All in all, the drive to Berlin takes about 6 hours, not counting bathroom and eating breaks.  We did pretty well, only stopping twice.  Because we didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time at the rest areas, we ended up eating something very familiar.  McDonald’s!  Ich leibe es.  (I’m loving it). 

When we arrived in Berlin it was dreary and rainy.  Poor Russ pretty much drove the whole way through downpours and steady rain.  We rested for a little bit and then decided to head out to have a look around and to find something to eat for dinner. 

Eventually we wound up eating outside despite the rain, under a canopy of umbrellas at the restaurant “Deutsche Kuchen.”  Will saw a sign for all German cuisine and he ordered, “Let’s go!”  Our waiter was very funny.  “Well, well, American life in Berlin.”  The menu was even a little advanced for Russ and Lauren.  While we could pick out a few things, we decided we’d better ask for an English menu so that we didn’t end up ordering something with eyeballs.  When Lauren asked, “Haben Sie eine Speisekarte auf Englisch?,” our waiter raised his eyebrows and replied, “Naturlisch” and went off to find us some more readable menus.  Funnily, he left Lauren with a German menu and conversed with her in that manner during the dinner.  The Deutsche Kuchen was where we tried some of our very German cuisine that was mentioned in the previous post–Sauerbraten, sauerkraut with boiled potatoes, cooked red cabbage, weinerschnitzel, etc.  Oh!  And of course some good beer for the gentlemen.  We ordered Dad a Hefeweisen (wheat beer), but when Russ requested a Dunkel (very, very dark beer) the waiter asked again to make sure that’s what he wanted.  He didn’t want to surprise the American with anything more than he could handle!!

Deutsche Kuchen--It was rainy, but warm enough to sit outside under a canopy!


Russ and Lauren at Deutsche Kuchen in Berlin

 After dinner we wandered around a little bit more and then decided to retire for the evening. 

Russ and Lauren have become very thrifty in their adventures.  Instead of paying the exorbitant price for hotel breakfasts, they bring apples and grab a pastry at a local bakery for breakfast.  Lauren found her favorite Shokocrossoiants in Berlin.  (Yum, chocolate for breakfast!) For anyone who knows how Pam and Will travel, it will not shock you that they wouldn’t pay for the expensive breakfast either.  However, in true Pam and Will-style, they found a grocery store in which they purchased all their breakfast goodies the night before.  It was almost serendipitous for two tramps like them–the grocery store was directly beside our hotel!

The first place we headed was toward the Brandenburg Gate.  Lauren booked a “Hop On-Hop Off” tour to take everyone around the city.  It’s a great tour system because the guide gave information in English and German to people on the bus (double-decker/open-air on top!).  When they pulled over at various spots, we were free to get off and explore with the knowledge that in 15 minutes, another Hop On-Hop Off would be in that very spot.  Busses ran like that until 5 PM. 

Hop On-Hop Off Bus

The Brandenburg Gate


Pam at the Brandenburg Gate

The tour was really nice.  We had plenty of room up on top of the bus, and we could see everything beautifully. 

The Reichstag--German Government Building


The German "White House"

We hadn’t been riding for too long when Mom and Dad decided that they wanted to get off.  We didn’t think this would be a problem because the last time the bus stopped, it was on a 15 minute break.  However, this time, about 2 minutes after Pam and Will departed, our bus pulled away.  The looks on our faces must have been priceless–jaws dropped, fingers pointing.  I believe Russ was probably the only one thinking, “I knew that would happen.”

Pam with painted pieces of the Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall--Painted

Old Wall Left Standing

Entering the Old American Sector of the City--Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie--Russ and I got a real kick out of these "actors"

Holocaust Memorial

Inside the Holocaust Memorial--a very disorienting, claustrophobic feeling

Back at the Reichstag

Happy Travelers

Pretzel Snack on the Lawn of the Reichstag

At the conclusion of our tour we split up for a little bit.  Russ and Lauren walked around, had currywurst for lunch by the Brandenburg Gate, and ended up at the Volkswagen Display Room.  I know that all the LaBarcas are shocked by this. hehe.  I will not report on that here, however.  Russ will give a full blog later.

We all met back at the hotel later because we had a very special evening planned.  We had tickets to attend a Baroque concert and dinner at the Charlottenburg Palace.  Russ did a wonderful job of figuring out the public transportation to get us there, and we walked into a beautiful evening.

Charlottenburg Palace

Pam and Lauren at The Charlottenburg Palace



The OrangerieThe dinner and concert were to be held at The Orangerie (literally, an orange garden) of the castle. At the outside of the entrance we were met by the official summoner of the king. He was dressed in Baroque-style garb, powdered wig and all. Somehow, both photographers neglected to take pictures of the ensemble in their dress! Upon entering, we walked into the hall with rooms on both sides of us. To the right was the beautiful area in which the music would be played. The Orangerie Hall

The Music Hall

The Music Hall

To our left was a stand at which we checked in with our hostess.  Upon registering, we were led through ceiling to floor velvet curtains into the dining area.

The Dining Room

A Semi-Distracted Group

To begin, Russ and Will had beer, Pam had Coke Light, and Lauren had a mandarin-champagne.  She also ordered water for the table (which we needed because it was hot in there!).  The summoner announced each course as it came out (it was also written on a scroll of paper on our table), and the meal was truly fancy.  It took over 2 hours to be served.  The first course was a delicious, cold soup of melon and red pepper.  It was served with a dollop of sour cream on top.  Our second course was some sort of game hen wrapped in herbs and dough, served with glazed turnips and carrots.  For dessert, we had a melange with sour cherries. 

Russ and Lauren at Dinner


Pam and Will at Dinner

After dinner finished, we made our way to the music room. 

Music Room

The concert was fantastic!  Instruments of the era, opera singers, Handel and Mozart.  All in all, a beautiful night spent in good company.

Lauren tries her hand at royalty

Charlottenburg Palace at Night

We made our way back to the hotel and slept soundly.  The next morning we headed out of royalty and back to Heidenheim.  Berlin was great!
Would you like to see more pictures of our visit to Berlin?