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 Vienna Edition.

iphone-latest-113-2We arrived in Vienna late that night, at our hotel, Aparthotel Adagio Vienna City ,which we had booked early that morning via hotels.com. It had been a rough drive for me, which in turn made it rough for Brad. For whatever reason, my body was exhausted. I felt feverish & could not for the life of me stay awake in the car. I think my body was burnt out from the weather, the constant wandering, and probably by bazaar sleep schedule.

Once we were checked in, we headed up to our room, and pretty much immediately I climbed into bed, and passed out. The next, morning, as usual… I was up before the sun. Preparing for our next drive & picking our hotel for Prague. {TIP: A great way to get through a road trip adventure such as this, is to not over prepare because you can get some great last minute hotel deals, and it allows flexibility in your driving schedule.} Since Brad continued to sleep, I decided it would be a great idea to get up & shower. This plan ended in frustrating because the blow dryers in European hotels are inadequate by American standards. It took forever to get my hair to dry. …and you can’t wander around in the frigid Austrian cold with wet hair… 

iphone-latest-087-2Eventually Brad was up, and it was time to explore the city of Vienna. We were on the hunt for good, and one of the first places to pop up was sadly, Starbucks, but it was easy. It was wrapped up in a busy shopping area. Locals were going to work, and tourists were passing through. We each got a sandwich of sorts, Brad had coffee, and I had tea. We were content & enjoyed relaxing and talking, but we knew the time was drawing near to hit the streets once more. The square was calling our name.  It was such a great walk, we got to see so many sites that day including the Austrian Parliament building. {FUN FACT: The Austrian Parliament is composed of 183 National Council Members whose terms last 5 years}

iphone-latest-092From there we continued on to Rathausplatz. This is where the Christmas market is held annually. It was quite large. We had a lot of time exploring. We walked up and down each row of booths, and were able to see all of the beautiful colorful things that were available to the passerby. Tasty candies, pretzels, bratwurst, hot wines, and trinkets… trinkets everywhere! We decided to embrace the culture & try the bratwurst stuffed with cheese, that was shoved into a hollowed out piece of bread & the condiments of your choice… It was fairly tasty, but a lot for me to handle, since I’m normally not a cased meat type of person. However, it was fun to try something new…  Does it look appetizing to you? Because it didn’t to me, but I ate it anyways. We tried some of the German candy that reminded me of the licorice ropes because of the size. They were labeled as sour, but they had nothing on Sour Belts (an American treasure). I am pretty sure that Europeans just don’t use as much acid in their sour candy as we do. Brad made the decision to try the hot wine in Vienna, and I think he liked it more than the one he had in Munich, but I don’t know that he would label it as one of his favorite things, but we did keep the souvenir mug, and I can’t wait to bust it out this holiday season!

iphone-latest-094We took some time to sit on a nearby bench and relax, while we watched others wander through. The area was beautifully decorated, and it was fun to watch the children ride on the horses nearby. Eventually though, it was time to move on, and we began to wander aimlessly through random Austrian roads. They led us all over the city. At one point we ended up in a large barren park where we watched a man play fetch with his 2 Jack Russel Terriers. We wandered on and through a beautiful architecturally designed tunnel into another random cobble stone square  full of horse drawn carriages where we were stopped by men in costume inviting us to a classical concert that included ballet & opera. We went back and forth on whether or not it would be a good idea or if it’s something we would want to do, but Brad made the executive decision that we should go (It was a great idea).  Once we knew what our evening plans were we continued onward in search of the next great thing. it turned out to be Starbucks. Brad needed to use the restroom & I need a pick me up…. A bagel & hot chocolate. It turned out to be one of the worst bagels I have ever had, but the hot chocolate was divine.

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We enjoyed our refreshments as we headed back to the square because we knew that we would need to be at the concert hall with time to spare. We decided to sit on the steps of a building directly across from Rathausplatz and watch the people go back and forth. You could tell as the day went on, the social nature of the area was on the rise.

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iphone-latest-103-2With our  hot drinks and bagel finished, we were at it again. The slow decent t to our hotel to find some decent outfits for our concert, and to drop off my bag and any unnecessary extras. We took a different route that led us past St. Stephen’s Cathedral & and through Stephansplatz which was full of shops and small eateries.  We stopped in St. Stephen’s for a quick peak. The outside was so beautiful, that we were curious about the inside. I would say it equally as decadent. {FUN FACTS: Groundbreaking for the Cathedral took place in 1137 AD & was originally completed in 1160 AD prior to add on contrustucion in the centuries to come. Also, the spire at the front of the Cathedral stands at 447.6 feet tall.}

Once we had what we needed and left what wasn’t, we were back out and about. We still a while before the concert so we stopped by the Christmas market once again for some quicky snacks (aka pretzels). We ate what we could, and then held onto the rest & headed for the concert location. Sadly, I don’t recall where the concert was held & we were not allowed to take photos inside, so it is hard for me to say. However, the tickets were sold through Music of Vienna. The performance we saw was by the Vienna Residence Orchestra, and it was truly fantastic. Brad & I both enjoyed it, which says a lot for the quality of the show. Pictures were not permitted, so sadly I have nothing to share with you. Because of the large amount of tourists they take in, they were not picky about our clothing which was very nice. {TIP: If you are going to Vienna, and have a free night and don’t know what to do, add this to your list! It is so enjoyable, and really creates a special night.}

When the concert was over we decided to take the long way back which led us back through Stephanplatz. It was really a fun night outing because all the streets had amazing Christmas light displays, and a massive tree to match. It made our holiday trip so much more enjoyable.  We got back to our room relatively early, got somewhat repacked, and were off to bed. We were headed to Prague the next morning, and wanted an early start… and that’s just what we got.

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LESSONS LEARNED: 

1) Hot Wines apparently aren’t that good

2) There is such a thing as too much bread…

3) A musical concert in Vienna is always a good idea