A European Roadtrip: The Munich End Edition.

We got back to Munich early that afternoon after almost a 2 hour drive. We stopped at the Hotel first, & checked in. We were staying at the Le Meridian, which was directly across the street from the ALoft that we stayed at when we first arrived. (As a Christmas present, my mom has booked this one with her Starwood account points. She got us a beautiful suite, that really was too big, but was truly relaxing for our final night.) We were there early so we left  our bags at the front desk, and headed to Budget to drop off the car which was quick, and easy, much more so than picking it up. …I have no idea, at what point we went back to get settled into our room… Sometime between check in and dinner. haha.

We wanted to grab some food for the time being. We planned on using the rest of our Euro coins, and hopped over the sandwich shop in the train station. We couldn’t afford much with our coins, so we opted for a sandwich and a pastry. Enough to hold us over until an early dinner.

iphone latest 434.JPGWe spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out around town. There wasn’t much to do because the majority of stores are closed on Sundays. The hot spot that day was the Christmas Market. There were so many people there that it was almost too difficult too maneuver down the aisles of vendors. In light of this all the global events that have been occurring with ISIS, it was making me quite nervous. I tried my best to remind myself that to continually think of them possibly attacking is allowing them to win. FACT: “To live in fear is to deprive ourselves of the opportunity of adventure.”-Natalie Rathman. I settled my nerves with a delicious Nutella crepe. Of all the crepes I had on this trip, and I had way too many, the Munich crepes were still the best!

When we were momentarily burnt out the market we head back to The Hofbrauhaus for our very early dinner. The place was packed and so noisy. We were lucky that we even got a table. We ordered different things than last time, but didn’t enjoy it much. (I think we were just getting burnt out on the cultural food.) We ate as much as we could, which included a German pretzel (of course), and finally got the check. It was time to move on again, like it always is for us. (I think we have short attention spans.)

insta-9We wandered all over the city. We weaved in an out of all the Christmas markets and down small quiet streets. Eventually, we did end up back at the big market in Marienplatz. I still hadn’t found my perfect German souvenir… I had loved the concept of the German smokers, but was hesitant because I  was afraid they would be too German in style. I also debated between some of the more crafty holiday items, or even a nutcracker…  I wanted something that suited our home and/or suited us. Finally, after hours and days of searching I found it. There, at one of the large booths, was it. My German  smoker. A plump German man in a sitting position smoking his pipe with a dog on his lap, a rifle over his shoulder, and a fox on his back. He was perfect. He had a feather in his hat, and big bushy mustache. We were short on cash, so thankfully, the man there was willing to bargain with us and Brad saved us close to 20 Euros which was awesome!

Eventually, we decided we should eat once more before we headed to bed. We had early flights the next morning, but still had lots to do to prepare. After dropping off anything that wasn’t mandatory to carry, we headed back out for Indian food. We scouted a few options. One option was underground, and kind of sketched us out, so we moved on to the next option. It was quaint, but looked welcoming, so we headed in for this trip’s second round of Chicken Korma. It was delicious, and we were satisfied. With sad hearts, and full stomachs we headed back to the hotel.

Within a couple hours, I had everything packed up. I’m a slow, but very strategic packer. We had to be up early, as we both had morning flights, but we also wanted to try to find a market to try to get Pecans for Brad’s colleagues because they wanted the chef at their “camp” to make a Pecan pie. Early the next morning, we did just that. With tea & coffee in hand, we scouted the closest grocery store, and searched high and low for pecans. 4 small bags, and about $20 Euro later, we had the “contraband”, and Brad’s work-friends eventually had their delicious, homemade-in-the-Congo Pecan Pie.

Before, there was another Goodbye in the Munich airport… I cried as usual even though I didn’t want to. However, I knew that within a matter of weeks, Brad would be home, and we would be off on our next mini adventure!

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LESSONS LEARNED: 

1) I now appreciate that US stores are open on Sundays

2) It never hurts to ask… You won’t know until you do!

 

A European Roadtrip: The Neuschwanstein Edition.

iphone-latest-370We arrived at our tiny hotel, Landgasthof Zur Post, in Schwangau early that afternoon. We quickly checked in got our bags dropped off. Sadly, our hotel did not have any wi-fi for guests. We were trying to map out our route to the Neuschwanstein castle using the computer in the lobby, but it was too difficult, sadly. It was extremely outdated. We ended up just asking the front desk staff, and hoped that we would remember.

We got back in the car & managed to find our way, thankfully it wasn’t too difficult. We parked our car in the lot below and began our stroll up the hill. We got to the ticket counter, and purchased our tour tickets. TIP: The tickets were rather expensive (Iiphone-latest-344 they were a little over $60USD a piece), so if you are on a tight budget, keep this post in mind, and do the hiking around the area instead. When you buy your ticket, you are assigned a tour time because of that we had ample time to make our way up. We had the option to take a carriage or walk. We decided to walk because we had so much time & we both enjoy the exercise. FACT: One of the best parts of the walk up is the view. You can see out over the entire valley. You can see the other castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau, that was built for Ludwig’s mother, which is on the road to the main castle. You can see the nearby mountains and lakes.. It’s just all together stunning!

iphone-latest-345On our way up the hill we checked several of the restaurants because we were trying to find the one I had eaten at as a child. I was on the hunt for what I recalled to be the best chicken schnitzel of my life. We didn’t find it until we were almost to the top. …but that was okay. It was worth the hunt. I was hungry, and it was delicious! The touch of lemon & the tenderness of the chicken makes it soooooo yummy!

Our time for our tour was approaching, so we gathered our things & worked toward finishing our walk up the hill. Eventually we reached the front, and hung out until our time came. We lined up at the gates, insert our ticket into the turn-style and continued on the path behind the guide.  We were so excited! I remembered parts of it from when I was a child, and  couldn’t wait to see the grandeur once again. …and it was just that Grandeur. The ornamental design is almost overwhelming as you see all the intricate detail everywhere. FACT: You are unable to take photos through the main tour. So in order to see the inside of the castle, click here. iphone-latest-351The disappointing part of the tour is this: Despite the magnitude of the castle, you only get to see a fraction, because apparently the majority of it was never finished. So at a heavy price tag, you only get to see a small part of what could be amazing. It’s great to see the views that King Ludwig II had when he looked out his castle windows, but I will say that if you have seen it once, there is no need to go again, not for the cost. The part we did get to take pictures of because it was separate from the rest of the tour: the kitchen!!! They had so many copper pots!!!

nikon-2-031-2We eventually made it out of the crowded royal structure, and continued to explore.. We took the pathway up towards the bridge was closed temporarily for renovations… So, much like some other daring tourists we ignore the signs telling us to stay on the path, we wander off onto a fresh trail where we could see the castle in the sunset light with no one to block our view. It did feel ballsy to stand with our back to a cliff, and I got very nervous about others too. There were some people who were acting silly near it, and at times, I felt like I needed to leave before someone slipped and plummeted into a  gory mess below. But as far as I know… everyone has survived thus far! (Insert applause here).

iphone-latest-390We began our descent down the darkening hill after getting some photos of the front of the castle. As we came down we noticed the lights near the lake. We head toward them and realized it was the tiniest of all Christmas Markets. They offered hand-crafted art, Sausage meals, and Hot Wine. Brad & I wandered through for a little bit, but it was so small that really, there wasn’t much to do. It seemed like a big social gathering of locals & maybe small touring groups.

Considering the only true food option was sausage, and I’m not a big sausage fan we eventually headed out. We wanted to try and find something else in the nearby “village”. We began our walk back toward the car and stopped by a couple of the fires for warmth. (Their fires were made from a large split log, it was so cool.) We were in the car for quite a while and were disappointed to find that nothing in the nearby village was even open. We were screwed, and I was forced into hunger! All we could do was turn back. We headed to our hotel. I think we were able to snack on some things back at the hotel, but we were never satisfied. All we could was head to sleep and wait for our breakfast the next morning… We ate the same old stuff, but we were hungry… That’s all that mattered. We loaded up the bags, and hopped into the car.

iphone-latest-418-1We were heading back to Munich that day, but we still wanted to see a little bit more of Neuschwanstein before we left. So we headed back up the road toward the castle. I hopped out to grab a few photos of the swans in the lake. Once I hopped back in the car we saw a small road that led off into the forest. We weren’t sure where it led, but we followed it all the way to end. It was the best experience we had while there. It was beautiful to see the leafless trees below the cloudy sky, the mossy rocks and tree stumps lying among a field of brown leaves. …and the views overlooking the lake and mountain tops…. We don’t know if we were suppose to be there, but we don’t regret it!

We slowly made the descent back down by the lake, and pulled out onto the street in a inconspicuous fashion, and headed back for the main highway.

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LESSONS LEARNED: 

1) You don’t need to spend the night, a day trip would be fine.

2) Not a lot to do in the area. 

3) Breaking the rules isn’t always a bad thing, and can expose some wonderful surprises!

A European Roadtrip: The Rothenburg Edition.

iphone-latest-333-1Our drive to Rothenburg ob der Tauber was only about an hour, thank the good Lord above! …and our hotel, Hotel Rappen, was easy to find as it was on the outside of the city. Thankfully, this made getting there easier because driving through the small cobblestone streets didn’t look all that exciting. Well, it did, but it also, didn’t.  The tricky part was finding out which building. Apparently, there were two buildings to the hotel but each building served a different purpose! It was weird, but we got it worked out. We got checked in, then grabbed our bags from the car. We headed to the elevator, which seemed ancient. It had hardly enough room for two people and bags, and was so slow. iphone-latest-313I’m not going to lie… I worried about it getting stuck and/or plummeting. Thankfully, that never happened. We arrived on our floor in one place and found our way down the small hall to our pleasantly spacious room with a great view of the town outside the wall. FACT: One of the great things about the more central-eastern parts of Europe is that the rooms are larger than those compared to Western Europe… Remember how we could hardly move in London in Paris??? Well, this trip we had plenty of rooms for activities!

Once we were settled, we ventured out the side of the hotel and into this small walled city. It was so beautiful. The quaint streets with the old fashioned architecture painted all different colors was truly something. Tourists and locals wandered the streets stopping in and out of cafes, and popping in and out of shops.  We wandered aimlessly, admiring it all.

iphone-latest-318-1We found an area of the walled city, on the southern edge, where the wall is low enough to look over because it drops down several storeis. You can look out over the valley which has quaint homes and small vineyards. It is a beautiful view, and should be seen.

Eventually, the sun set. We felt like we had seen everything, and really just wanted to eat. We found a small restaurant near by & popped in. We both ordered the French Onion soup, which was so unbelievably salty, that Brad couldn’t even finish his. I did it for him..

Eventually, we continued to wander  through all the small areas of the Christmas market, but we didn’t find anything that interesting. We did stop into St. James’ Catholic Church because we heard the organ playing. When we walked in, it was completely dark except for the lights from the candles. It was amazing! I think my soul was overwhelmed by the insane acoustics as the organ screamed… It was such an intriguing setting. If it wasn’t for the other patrons inside, I probably felt like we were part of murder mystery.  Eventually the music stopped, and the people began to clear out, and so did we.

nikon-2-029With the uncertainty of what to do next, we just began to head back toward the hotel, but then curiosity struck. Just to the right of the city entrance, their was a set of stairs leading up the side of the city wall. We knew. We had to climb. ..and we did. We climbed to the top of the wall and began to walk. It was incredibly dark. You could hardly see your feet move in the yellow glow of the city lights. The turrets were incredibly tricky, as they were almost 100% closed in. Some of the had steps, so at almost every one, you had to cling to the sides of the walls, and step slowly. At a certain point we decided to start using the flashlight application on our phones for piece of mind.  We walked until we could not walk anymore and had to turn back. It was a long way to the start, but it was so worth it. How often, do you get to walk a city wall in the dark!! It felt so medieval. All I needed was a bow and arrow, and I was ready to tar someone from the side.  TIP: The wall is well managed, but certain areas were kind of dirty, and some spots did make me a little nervous. If you are a major germ-a-phobe or just like to live life on the safe side, I’d recommend doing it during the day. Granted, it’s probably a fair amount busier then.

After our great wall adventure, we headed back to the hotel for some R&R. We watched a movie on our iPad, and passed out. TIP: Having movies on your iPad is a great way to kill time and stay warm in some of these smaller cities. Brad and I aren’t big drinkers,  so this was convenient for us. Shops in other countries don’t have extensive hours like in the US, so it’s nice to have that backup option of something to do. 

iphone-latest-342-1The next morning we arose with purpose. I was going to the Kathe Wohlfhart store to get myself some ornaments. (I told Brad that I would only be getting few, but ended up purchasing closer to ten. WORTH IT! ) But, first, breakfast. We wandered downstairs to the restaurant where we took part in the buffet. The same ole’ stuff as everywhere else… meets, cheeses, breads, produce items… Satisfying, but getting old.  We ran backup to the room to grab our coats and then headed back into the magical walled city. There are like four Kathe Wohlfhart stores inside the wall…. but I wanted one specific one… The BIG ONE!!! I found it… The place was literally a maze. They have it set up so that you can only go one direction, and that one directions winds you through the store in a strategic fashion…. It truly was magical. It was so shiny & sparkly inside with all the Christmas things you could ever want! I was in heaven. We were inside for probably about 45 minutes, and eventually took my basket to the counter. I will never forget the experience that came with checking out After the lady had rung everything up, I handed her my credit card, which I had never signed. This apparently was a huge deal. Apparently, if your card isn’t signed then they don’t want to use it. So after shaming me for it, she asked if I had ID, and I had to say no… my only ID was drivers license which had my maiden name & didn’t match my credit card (oops). I told the woman that if she put everything aside I’d go get it, or if she wanted to use Brad’s it was the same card and he had ID. lol.. All of this forced her to just accept it, and run my damn card. I’ll never forget her condescending tone as she told me that I should sign the back of my card. What a moment!

insta-8With ornaments in hand we were on our way. We wandered the city a bit more out of curiosity, but there wasn’t much to find. Brad was curious about trying a schneeball. He had been eyeing them the day before, as they did look like a delightfully enchanting pastry. However, to his dismay he said it was like eating pie crust covered in chocolate. Which, I think is all it is. I don’t think he’ll get one again if we ever go back!  As our curiosity began to fade, we headed back to the hotel. It was time to move on. Neuschwantstein was calling, and we didn’t want to miss the tour!

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LESSONS LEARNED: 

1) One day is plenty!

2) Hi, my name is Natalie & I have an addiction to Christmas ornaments.

3) Just because you are in Europe doesn’t mean the French Onion will be good…

4) If you plan on using a CC in Europe, sign the back of the card. They don’t like if your card isn’t signed. (and make sure you have your ID)

A European Roadtrip: The Nuremberg Edition.

nikon-2-013-1After a grueling three and half hour drive, and a rest stop at McD’s to use the bathroom, we arrived within the small walled city in the late afternoon. We stayed at the Holiday Inn where parking and checking in was a breeze. We had a nice view of the street below where we were able to watch antics take place.

As soon as we were settled in we decided to head to the Museum of Germanic Art & Culture. We knew they closed soon, and didn’t want to miss it. We did have a difficult time finding the main entrance. It felt like we were wandering all over the place aimlessly. Once we did find it, and we did… find it. We walked to the counter where we were pleasantly surprised to find out that they do not charge for tickets within the last two hours of business. It was perfect! We love seeing antiquities, but I don’t love spending hours reading and what not because realistically it goes in one way and out the other.

iphone-latest-243In hopes of finding our way, we headed toward our hotel initially to ensure we had everything we needed for the chilly night. As we left again we decided to go right. That was a mistake. We were going to walk along the wall, but that also meant, and we were completely unaware of this, that we were walking through the red-light district… As a very conservative and private person, this was a little awkward for me, but thankfully it didn’t last too long. We followed the dark road around for a  little ways, but eventually decided to cut back in towards the center of the city. We found the main shopping area that was just south of the river. We wandered through & explored a bit, and had the pleasure of finding an almost fully living Nativity, meaning the animals were alive the people were mannequins. The double humped camel, named Ivan, clearly found Brad to be interesting as he came right up to him almost smacking their heads together. It was fun to see!  As we strolled through the city we came to the river. It was truly beautiful. It was a great place to stop for photos, and there were many different vantage points to choose from.

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Dinner time was approaching, and I could feel myself starting to lose my cool. I wanted pizza. Pizza Hut, which we had seen earlier that afternoon, sounded fine to me because I just needed my fix, but Brad insisted that we push onward in search of something better. I was starting to get irritated, but thankfully as my mood began to worsen about Brad’s persistence the Heavens smiled down upon him. He found for us Provenza near the Hauptmarkt which is where the Christmas Market was set up, and it was hopping! . The food was exquisite… But then again, all I got was a cheese pizza… (Yes, I am a child… I also like my cheese burgers with ketchup only… Haters gonna hate.)

With full bellies we were able to enjoy the Christmas Market that was right outside the restaurant. We got to admire the beautiful glass ornaments, smell the hot beverages, and take in all the merriment.  Our night was not over, and we were getting a little burnt out on the Christmas Markets..( I also knew that when we got to Rothenburg we would be going to Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop…. I was holding out!)

iphone-latest-252From there the adventure continued North, and uphill, toward the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg. With curious spirits we pressed on. We made our way through the winding cobblestone streets, and made the climb to the top. The view was rewarding. We enjoyed staring out over the skyline, and seeing how far we had come.  Our journey continued as we wandered throughout the open Castle passage ways… We ended up finding a small staircase that was not blocked off that allowed us to head down into what I imagine was once a mote. It was huge, and a little bit creepy, but so worth the exploration. I believe the area now is considered part of the gardens.  It was fun to see how deep the mote once was, and how small you feel standing next to it, and pretending to try to climb out of it.  We eventually found our way out, as the road below eventually led us to a street corner. We followed the road for a ways on the outside of the city wall, but once again eventually cut back in as it was more familiar to us at that point, as well as more visually pleasing.  When we reached the river, we took a city on a bench to rest our feet. It was peaceful, and it was beautiful, even in the dark the glow of city lights in the winter air seem to be so relaxing. With Brad as exhausted as he was, eventually we decided to remove ourselves. We took the familiar path, eager for sleep, and exhilarated to the see this beautiful Germanic city in the day light.

The next morning we awoke fairly early. We dressed & repacked our bags, and headed out in search of breakfast. It was cold and raining, so we went with something familiar, Starbucks. We didn’t feel like aggressively hunting, and not many places had opened yet.

iphone-latest-276-1A tea, a coffee, and a couple pastries, and we were set. We took our time, as Brad perused CNBC, and I worked on trying to get my Christmas music uploaded onto my phone.  As we sat there, we waited for the rain to clear a bit. Finally, it began to clear. So a little bit warmer, and a little bit drier we ventured back out. It was great to see the city with less people and in the daylight. It was beautiful. We took a left near the front of St. Lorenz Church, and it led us right back to the river, where I was able to grab some beautiful and idyllic photos. From there we pressed on, crossing the old wooden bridge and winding our way through cobblestone streets lined with colorful homes and buildings. It was one of those moments where you think, “I’d live here”, and then you remember the brisk cold that you feel you are barely surviving, and there isn’t even snow!!

We were satisfied with Nuremberg even though we had been in the city for less than 24 hours, we found it to be amazing, but once again it was time to move forward with the itinerary. We quickly scampered back to the hotel collected our things & in a flash were in the car headed to the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, which is now a museum documenting the Hitler & Nazi Regime and their crimes committed.

iphone-latest-311-1Originally, This tour wasn’t at the top of my list. I’m not a big history buff, but I knew Brad would enjoy it, and I knew there were things that I would find interesting. However, now that I have gone, TIP: EVERYONE SHOULD GO DO THIS. This was a truly emotional and moving experience. It held my attention pretty much all the way through. There were a few parts where I kind of skipped ahead, or just didn’t listen to the audio guide, but it is truly well-down and worth the affordable ticket price. The nice thing is that it was quiet, and easy to move through. But seriously, if you are in Nuremberg, this is truly an incredible experience.

After a few hours of gaining insight & wanting to cry at the sight of food-deprived bodies in a ditch, I needed food to renew my spirit & stop my stomach from grumbling. Nothing seemed that great at the cafe in the Museum, so we settled on McD’s. FACT:You’ll find out that we spend a lot of time in McDonalds when we travel, it’s kind of pathetic, and we know it. Also, if you are like me, and you like chicken nuggets with honey… You have to bring your own honey, they don’t have it there. One quick meal later, we were back in the car headed to Rothenburg. I couldn’t wait!

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LESSONS LEARNED: 

1) Red Light Districts are now in Germany… Apparently it helps cut down the sex trade issues there…

2) Last minute museum entry can pay off

3)  Nuremberg is a fantastic place to spend at least one full day… 2 would be ideal.

A European Roadtrip: The Salzburg Edition

iphone-latest-070…And just like that we were cruising the roads of Germany en route to the beautiful city of Salzburg. It was approximately a two and half hour drive. {FACT: Salzburg is a very small German town. you could easily just do 1-3 days here. We only did about one full day total} The terrain was much different than what we are accustomed to in this desert town. It was enjoyable driving by the green pastures and mountainous terrain. We had originally planned on stopping by the Salt Mine before we got into the city, but it didn’t pan out on the first day, so we decided we would enjoy it the following afternoon on our way to Vienna.

iphone-latest-072Finding our hotel, Hotel Bräu Imlauer, in Salzburg turned out to be a tedious task… Even with Apple maps. That is partially due to the fact that we ended up off the grid on our way in.. We were trying to find our way by memory which turned out to be a task from hell.  We were hungry and we spent a fair amount of time driving around in what felt like circles. We finally pulled into a parking garage to try to re-route and were eventually able to ask a gentleman working there for guidance. He gave us some general directions, and just like that we were back on track. We finally arrived, and were able to get checked in. It was a decent hotel; obviously older, but clean. Our TV didn’t work which was a slight upset that first night.  With our lodging arrangements settled w were able to head back out to find ourselves a true Austrian dinner.

nikon 1 012 -2 .jpgWe found a quaint restaurant on the other side of the crystal clear river tucked back on a small side road. I had the fried chicken (schnitzel) with veggies and brad had duck. It was delicious… Fried chicken in Europe just always seems to be so much better than it is here.  We are quick eaters, so once we finished our meal we decided to go explore the city a bit more. We found the action, which was near the Christmas market in the square. They had a man-made ice skating rink set up for those daring to try. As usual we watched the locals enjoy their evening out, and wandered the market looking for souvenirs & snacks… Yes, I did get another Nutella crepe… I eat a lot of Nutella gelato & crepes when I am overseas. They were not as good here. They were just a tad over-cooked which leads to a crunchy-chewy texture… It tastes good, but doesn’t have the same level of pleasure.

Getting back to the story, it was freezing cold. We attempted to wander the city for a little while, but it was proving to be a daunting task. So, we eventually decided to head back to the hotel which was a long walk down dark streets, and over rivers. At one point, I thought I had lost all feeling in my toes… Even with two pairs of wool socks & my hand warmers that found their way into my boots. It felt like the oncoming of frost-bite. Whether or not it was, we will never know because we ended up stopping in the local McDonald’s so that I could warm up, and so Brad could use the restroom.  We sat there for a little while until I figured I could handle the cold for the rest of the route. It was tough, but we made it. There is something about Salzburg nights that are brutal. Maybe it’s because of it being a smaller city, the streets were mostly empty.

nikon-1-018-2The next morning we had planned to head to the fortress, and do some additional exploring. It was a beautiful winter walk. We passed by these neat homes that were built into the cliff as we headed into the city center. (Don’t you wonder what that would be like?)

We needed to find food… …and so it was, a small bakery/sandwich shop just off the main road.  A good meal to start the day.

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On our way to finding the fortress, we ended up stumbling into a beautiful cemetery, part of which is built up into the side of a mountain cliff. It was very inexpensive to enter this portion, and you are able to get some great views from the small windows. I will say that if you have any knee issues, I wouldn’t recommend it. The stairs are steep and narrow. My knee issues come and go, and I felt like a feeble old woman. But the view of the sites beyond were truly worth the light agony.

From there we decided to continue our journey up to Fortress Hohensalzburg. Finding the path up to the fortress seemed to be a little more challenging than anticipated. Which way was up? We attempted to follow the masses, and it did finally pay off. {FACT: Prior, as we wandered the streets we did encounter several female refugee immigrants sitting on the street corners begging for money. In some areas, it was almost every corner. It was such a different experience that we were not expecting.}

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iphone latest 081.JPGYou do have the option to take the tram up to the top, but we opted to walk. We love to walk. It was a great way to warm up. By the time we arrived, and had paid our entrance fair, we had taken our winter coats off ( it didn’t last long though).

The fortress is much of what you could expect… A museum of artifacts from earlier centuries. Their clothing, weapons, furnishings. A fun exhibit… but for me… you seen one, you’ve seen them all. For me, I go for the views. The views here were stunning.

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The fun thing about this fortress is that at Christmas time there is a small market for the tourists that serves treats, hot beverages, and has trinkets for the adults & toys for the children… This was just another opportunity for Brad to pick up a toy bow and arrow & pretend to shoot me… Sadly, for him, if I die, he doesn’t get much…

nikon 1 037 -2.2.jpgAfter taking in some breath taking views, we knew we needed to get a move on because we decided to go to the Salt mines before he headed to Vienna. We stopped at a small sandwich chain & grabbed our usual sandwiches, Sprite, and a pretzel for the road. We ate our sandwiches inside (Yes, I know, we eat a lot of sandwiches), but then sat and finished our drink along the side the river.  The river water there is so incredibly clear, it was almost shocking to see such clear water running through a European city… When you compare it to that of Paris or London, it’s night and day. Perhaps, that is because it is so shallow and I’m assuming ice-cold.

Once we had our bags in the car, and our route mapped. We were off on the next adventure, and it was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.  Part of why I selected Salzbergwerk Berchtesgaden is because of Brad’s mining background. I thought it would be interesting to see what it is like to be inside of an underground mine (even though Brad work’s in an open pit). Also, I should point out, the mine has 2 giant wooden slides that you go down.

iphone latest 084.JPGThis experience was so much more than we anticipated. First, everyone get’s a jumpsuit… you put on your jumpsuit, and you wait for the tour train. Once it arrives, you get to get up close and personal with your group and possibly other tour guests, as you straddle the car & personal space becomes a thing of the past. (I should point out that we were the youngest ones in our group, as we got in with a large group of rowdy senior citizens.) It’s so worth it though… You get to walk through salt mine tunnels that offer a faint sparkle. You get to learn about the history of the mine. You get to take a boat ride…. Yes, there is a small boat ride… and that boat ride includes a light show!!  You get to go down 2 slides… and you have the option to purchase a souvenir picture at the end… We did not buy the souvenir photo because Brad didn’t like the way it turned out. I however, thought it was hilarious & decided to snap a photo of it with my phone. FACT:This is truly one of the best things I have done on a trip & would highly recommend it! I will also point out, that I would do this tour again… Maybe every time we go to Salzburg.

It was a great way to end the day before our dreaded drive to Vienna…

nikon 1 043.JPGLESSONS LEARNED: 

1) I am not cut out for cold weather …still….

2) 2 pairs of wool socks & hand warmers in the boots isn’t enough.

3) Salt Mines & senior citizens make for an entertaining afternoon

A European Roadtrip: The Munich Edition.

insta-2Brad had never been to Germany, and really wanted to go. We thought it would be a great opportunity to take advantage of this during his first break from work, which happened to be right before Christmas. I thought it would also be an ideal time for us to enjoy the Christmas markets and wintery weather.

Once we had an idea of where we wanted to go, I began scouting the options for once we arrived. Do we drive or do we fly?

After our first Europe trip, that entailed lots of “travel details” pertaining to flight times, baggage checking, airline terminals… I decided it might be easier and more convenient for us to rent a car and just go when we felt like it. Once we decided that was the best option, it was time to pick our locations. That was the hard part. There are so many amazing cities in the area to visit, and so many nearby countries…. It’s just like, “how do I choose!?!?!”.  Here’s how. Google Maps.  You put in all the places you want to go, and work your way down to the most plausible route for us.

Our route started in Munich, then on to Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, Nuremberg, Rothenburg, to Neuschwanstein, and back around to Munich.  It was perfect! A magical and beautiful drive. Little did we know that this would become one of our favorite trips thus far.

iphone latest 058.JPGWe arrived in Munich the morning of December 9th. We found our way to the train station that took us into the center of the city, and directly across from our hotel, the Aloft Munich. Our hotel was in an ideal location. It was literally across the street from the main train station, the Munchen Hauptbahnhof. It was also near the mall and several other shops and restaurants..  And maybe a 10 minute walk to the Glockenspiel in Marienplatz.

We decided to only spend a day and a half in Munich, and I’m glad we did because you really don’t need much more in my opinion. Munich is much more modernized with historical touches through out. There was a lot of action at the Marienplatz (the main square) because that is where the main Christmas market was.  It was fun to walk through and see all the souvenirs and gifts, as well as snacks!   We did continue wandering through Marienplatz to the east, and found a fun day market that had a lot of handicrafts, flowers, and again some food. It was fun! There are several Biergartens throughout the area as well where you can get a tasty hot meal, and nice cold brew.

Shall we get on with the story?

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A tired Brad enjoying a nice cold brew.

Once we arrived at Aloft, we checked in, dropped off our bags & then decided to go grab some lunch. We were both exhausted and knew that laying down would be disastrous. Thankfully, I truly enjoy my travel buddy, so that makes it a lot easier to want to stay up and enjoy whatever comes our way.

 

We mapped our way to the Marienplatz & found a yummy and hopping restaurant to stop for our first real German meal. Because it was briskly cold (without snow), I got a tasty soup.  It was fun to be among the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers and tourists. But I hated having to take my big coat on and off. I was afraid of accidentally smacking an innocent passerby. (As an Arizonan, heavy coats aren’t a part of our usual winter wardrobe and it was tricky to adapt to.)

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An evening view of the Glockenspiel

Once we were through with a our quick meal, we were back on our feet, and found ourselves among the Marienplatz crowds. They were shopping, eating, and waiting in hopes that the Glockenspiel would give them a small show. Considering our sleep deprivation, we found the crowds to be a little overwhelming & the decided to keep cutting through. This is how we stumbled upon the day market. They had some truly fun decorations. Little woodland creatures made of naturally materials, hanging decor for walls or door knobs, exquisite wreaths… A girl could go nuts, and it was difficult to practice self-control among the company of my “thrifty” husband. I did try to remain practical in terms of what would match the decor of our home (that we currently don’t possess).

 

We also, found the Starbucks.. We are always looking for Starbucks for a little familiarity and a pickup! Once you are on the east end entry/exit of Marienplatz & the across from the park/day market, go right.   We spent the early evening enjoying the Marienplatz night life. We enjoyed some amazing Nutella crepes from the crepe stand in the center of the square.

We really did not last long.  We were exhausted. We headed back to the hotel & passed out. The next day we ended up sleeping until two in the afternoon. Thankfully we didn’t panic. We got dressed in our toasty coats and headed for the door. We knew exactly where we were going. The Hofbrauhaus!

It was there hat we had our His & Her beer (I made that up because mine was small and his was big).  I ordered a scrummy noodle dish. Brad ordered a pork schnitzel type of meal, and we shared a pretzel… because it would be wrong not too.  (There is a gift shop, where you can purchase some souvenir HB mugs to take home with you… I opted for coasters & a couple of the cute menus, free & not as heavy to tote around.)

Once we paid for our meal, we headed back to the streets of Munich and wandered without aim. We just wanted to see what we could find, and we found a small treasure. A wonderfully scented Christmas tree lot on a beautiful cobble stone street outside a historical building. It appeared to be a Pantheon, but I’m not 100% sure. I have no idea were we were.

insta-3Evenings start very early there. It’s dark by 17:30, which is something that I struggled with. I had the tendency to lay down & not want to get back up. It made Brad crazy. It was just so dark and so cold. I don’t like the cold. haha. That evening we did the usual, we wandered the city, and we discovered various other markets which was exciting. One of which was more of a rennasaince style market. They offered slow cooked meats, mulled wines (Brad tried it & regretted it), and fun toys for the kids. …or my case, my husband to jab me with.

We eventually headed back to the familiar iphone-latest-060territory of the Marienpltaz browsed through some of the shops as, I was looking for a great German souvenir to take home. You can find some really interesting things, and some not-so-surprising things. Beersteins are there in masses, same with incense smokers (which is what I ended up purchasing on our last day). We ate more Nutella crepes, wandered through the holiday pop-up shops of the Christmas-Market and discovered a Jewish memorial just north of the Marienplatz.

We were not out late, as we were leaving the next morning to head to Salzburg. Once we were ready we headed back to the hotel, started watching The Sound of Music &  and fell asleep. iphone-latest-064

Once we were all packed up the next morning, we headed back to the Marienplatz because we saw there was a bank on one of the corners. We wanted to get Euros for the rest our travels. It was great to be in the area before the crowds. The crisp morning air was very refreshing & a great start to our day. On our way there we stopped by the windows of the Galeria Mall because they had these festive window displays for the holiday season. Each little animatronic animal performed a task (see pic below) before your very eyes. it was very magical.   We also were able to get a great view of the Glockenspiel.

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Animated critters at the Galeria mall outside of the Marienplatz.

Once we had our cash-money, we went back to our area. We stopped by the train station for a quick breakfast at one of the small cafes. We grabbed a couple sandwiches, and, yes, a pretzel.  We walked back across the street, to the hotel & went up to the room to eat & grab our bags. Before we knew it, we were checked out & at the Budget location nearby to grab our rental car. The fun part, though, was finding our way out of the city with nothing but our Apple maps on our iPhones.  & just like that we were Salzburg bound.

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LESSONS LEARNED: 

1) I am not cut out for cold weather

2) Brad’s presence encourages less shopping

3) 2 days in Munich is plenty