Category Archives: Travel

Munich | Salzkammergut Lake District: Day 3 – Part 2

Read about the first part of our day in Salzburg here.

As promised, here’s the second part of our day in Salzburg. This was a 4 hour tour that started at 2pm. We got on this bus, like I said which was very touristy (the most touristy thing we did) but we went in knowing that and we were totally okay with that because we wouldn’t have seen the Lake District on this trip otherwise. Looking back, I am so glad we did it. It was so nice to have somebody else take charge for the day, tell us where to go, what to see, and us just go along for the ride. Really, to see Salzkammergut was such a once in a lifetime thing that it didn’t matter how I saw it. We sort of thought of this area as our Telluride-Ouray-Silverton, Colorado except on the most MEGA of steroids, but it’s the only thing I could remotely compare it to that I’ve actually seen. After all, they do call Ouray the “Switzerland of America”.

Our bus ride was pretty comfortable. Comfortable enough to take a snooze on the way back to Salzburg anyways. Here we were, excited to begin our tour (and couldn’t help snapping a few pics of the rolling hills and picturesque houses on the way) and see the sights of the Salzkammergut Region!

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Our first stop was St. Gilgen, birthplace of Mozart’s mother and sister and the first lake we saw which was Lake Wolfgangsee. We didn’t have long here. Just enough to stretch our legs, snap a few pictures, and watch the holiday-ers enjoying their time on the water and on the dock. It was beautiful. The air smelled clean, fresh, and we were definitely high up in altitude now! It looked like such an amazing place to vacation for like a week or two just relaxing on your porch, boating, swimming, shopping in the adorable shops, eating the delicious food. This just makes me want to go back…

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Okay, so our little ferry that took us across the waters; it was really crowded at first and we didn’t have a place to sit. Which was fine. But as people got off at their stops we eventually got us a little table and it was really nice and peaceful to just sit and stare off at the incredible scenery. They served food and beverages on the ferry but we were still fine from our lunch earlier in Salzburg.

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How would you like that personal dock? Oh the water… it was extraordinary. Crystal clear, turquoise, blue, green. Every color in that spectrum and so inviting. I wanted to dive right in.

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Really wishing I had a wide-angle lens for this day!

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After our 45 minute boat ride we arrived at the little market town of St. Wolfgang. Apparently we saw the White Horse Inn which has some social-historical significance but I don’t remember it! What I remember is tasting the freshest mountain water I could ever think imaginable. There were these fountains where you could fill your water bottles up (much like many other places in Europe had, i.e. Paris & Rome) for free, but this water was like straight from the snowcaps.

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After our time at St. Wolfgang where we walked around, window shopped, sat and watched the water, we got back on the bus and then took a short stroll along Lake Mondsee to its namesake, the town of Mondsee for some more perusing. Mostly we were done for the day and ready to make the drive home as we were pretty sleepy, but alas we made time for one more cathedral in Mondsee to see the Mondsee Abbey where the wedding took place in The Sound of Music. That was pretty neat. It really was beautiful. And Dan picked flowers for me there which I don’t ever want to forget. Salzkammergut was wonderful. Definitely one of the many highlights of our trip. :)

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And I don’t have anymore pictures from our day as once we got back to Salzburg it was a mad rush to get to the train station (due to some fellow tour mates who lost their husband/wife and kept us for over a half an hour and our guide ended up having to leave in Mondsee!) to make our train back to Munich and while running through the town, darting through traffic, we got a torrential downpour which soaked us and I do believe we all almost got taken out by a car at one point. That was scary. But we’re still here. Onwards!

Next up: Nuremberg!

This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Munich | Salzburg: Day 3 – Part 1

It’s been too long since I’m posted. I am going to split this into two parts because it was such a full but absolutely beautiful and amazing day for us. As with all of my Europe posts, this is going to be very photo heavy. I’m sure you won’t complain. :)

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We spent the day in Salzburg, Austria, birthplace of Mozart, and the Lake District which I am SO glad we did. It wasn’t just to check another country off our list, because I’d hardly say that we got to check Austria off our list with this one day (side note: can I really check any country off of our list after only a few cities or days?). I had a coworker highly recommend Salzburg as well as one of my relatives so with our five days in Munich, we thought we could spare one day to spend there. And we were SO glad we did.

We left Munich via the Bayern train at 8:30am and arrived in Salzburg at 10am. We had planned to just spend the day in Salzburg but at the last minute we decided to take a Lakes and Mountains tour of the Bavarian Alps of the “Sound of Music” fame and not to spoil it for you, but we were not disappointed. This was the most touristy-tour we did of the entire trip, mind you, where our guide wore typical Austrian attire and there was another guide in the back translating just for the massive group of Chinese tourists. We still weren’t disappointed. The bus ride gave us the opportunity to sit, relax, journal, *gasp* nap, ignore the tour guide, but the rest of the time when we were off the bus, we did our own thing and we got to see some of the most beautiful country we’ve ever seen.

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Anyways, back to Salzburg. It’s such a fairy tale city with its horse drawn carriage rides, the beautiful pastel colored buildings, the sleepy feeling it gives off, the food, the shops… oh I just love reminiscing about it! Our first stop when we arrived was the Salzburg Cathedral or Salzburger Dom located in Old Town. It’s been around since 774, but in it’s present state since the 17th Century and contains the actual baptismal font in which Mozart was baptized. This cathedral and its dome were massive. Lots of white other than the colorful baroque murals that littered the dome and facade, the rest of the cathedral looked pretty sepia and drab. Still beautiful and impressive and it was very cool inside which was nice as we were already baking!

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I found the fountain outside to be very interesting. It was called the Immaculate Column and it was supposed to depict the Immaculate Conception (one of life’s greatest mysteries, eh? yeah right…). The statue of the Virgin Mary is surrounded by allegoric figures on four sides; the devil, an angel, truth (wisdom), and the Church. The mystery of the Immaculate Conception was so great that the devil growled in envy, the angels were delighted, human wisdom vanished, and there was rejoicing in the Church. Blows. My. Mind. But, it was a pretty cool fountain.

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Afterwards, we had time to mosey through the still sleepy town as the herds of tours and school field trips hadn’t yet made their way to Mozart’s birthplace. We did some shopping as they are known for cuckoo clocks and their eggshell ornaments. We would have loved to have brought back a clock but our backpacks did not allow for such things, so we picked up an ornament for our tree as we did in most cities we went to. I just loved the beautiful, clean architecture here and the pastel colors of the buildings.

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As usual we stopped in the markets and marveled at the goods and then found a little sausage/sandwich stand where I had the best sandwich I have ever had. I don’t know if it is because I was hungry or if it was really that good, but I notated it in my journal, I put it on Facebook, and I still remember how freakin’ good this sandwich was. A fresh croissant, turkey, some kind of cream cheese (NOT Philadelphia!), lettuce, tomato, and sliced swiss cheese. I was in heaven. Dan loved his sausage and horse radish.

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And then we found it. This. This stand of fucking amazing chocolatey bready goodness.

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And I had to have one of those, too. It was everything you think it was.

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Okay, so after our little food stop in front of this church which I can’t remember and it’s not worth really sharing pictures of because they are so dark, we made our way through the hordes of people who had finally poured into Salzburg and awakened it, to Mozart’s birth house. Or Mozarts Geburtshaus. It was bright yellow and right next to an H&M and other shops. We didn’t go in.

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And finally, we made our way to the gardens of Mirabell Palace which were gorgeous. Greenery, flowers, fountains, paths, and boxwood mazes everywhere. We sat around and snapped some pics while waiting for our bus to come and pick us up for our afternoon tour. Our travel mates were both feeling a bit under the weather this day. Julie had a headache and Jason had a cold so we don’t have many pics with them in Salzburg. Interesting fact, the scene in “The Sound of Music” where Maria and the children were singing do re mi  was filmed here in front of the fountain and on the steps of the Mirabell Palace (not pictured). Fun!

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Oh and that’s Hohensalzburg Fortress in the back of the last picture. Would have loved to have seen it, but not enough time in our one short day. Oh well, next time!

Next up: the romantic lake district of Salzkammergut and the incredible scenery!

This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Munich | Neuschwanstein: Day 2

Day trip to Füssen/Hohenschwangau, Germany: Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles

You can read about our first day in Munich here, here, and here.

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We spent most of the rest of our time in Germany doing day trips outside of Munich which was fine by us as there was really truly so much to see in Germany. While planning our trip we specifically bumped our time there up to 5 days for this reason. So. Worth. It. We loved every minute we spent in Germany. It was our favorite country, closely followed by Italy. In my opinion, Bavaria was the perfect introduction to Germany. Such a beautiful country, and from what I’m told, Bavaria is like its own country! If we go back to Germany again we’ll do Berlin and see more WWII sites and then of course I’d love to go even more East. And also to the village my parents lived in and where my brother was born, that would be pretty amazing.

We took the train to Füssen (using the group Bayern ticket) leaving Munich at 9:51am and arriving at 12:13pm. We then took a very short bus ride to the small village of Hohenschwangau, where the castles are located and where we were to spend our lovely day.

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Schloss Hohenschwangau was a 19th Century palace built by King Maximillian II of Bavaria and the childhood home of the Mad King Ludwig II and Otto I of Bavaria. King Ludwig II is well known for his extravagant palaces like the Schloss Neuschwanstein that he had built a stones throw away from his parents’ castle and also Schloss Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee (which we did not see though we would have loved to if we had more time in Germany). I highly recommend checking out the Wikipedia pages that I linked for Neuschwanstein at least, as I couldn’t take pics of the interior and they have some pretty spectacular pictures of it! I found the whole story of King Ludwig II to be fascinating (and his brother as it turns out – mental illness definitely runs in the family, don’t I know it?!) and we are definitely lucky to be left with his pretty amazing obsession with the Middle Ages.

Our tour of the first castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau started at 1:30pm. I bought our tickets online so we got to skip the line of probably hundreds of people and just pick up our tickets at the ticket counter and make our way up the smaller hill to the castle. The tour was small and personable (as most people skip the parents’ castle and opt only for the famous Neuschwanstein) although as was the case in both castle, no pictures were allowed. Apparently, everything in the castle is copy written and the only pictures allowed from within the castle were of the view outside the windows. But what a lovely view it was!

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These bathrooms were a funny moment for us; Dan and Jason both had to use the bathroom and the men’s was full so they both went into the women’s for quite a while together while we stood watch and pretended like we were in line to deter any women who might want to go in!

After the tour was over, we had time to hang around the village, stop and get some (pretty mediocre) pizza and cokes with one ice cube, shop for hats, and kill time until we had to make our way up the daunting hill to the eventual bus stop that would take us the rest of the way to Schloss Neuschwanstein.

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That walk was not fun once the bus dropped you off. And the whole way up (and down) we were behind the typical European smoker – something I just did not understand. Why would you be smoking as you trek up this ridiculously steep hill? The air was thin and my asthma was already being tried, I just remember being annoyed as hell. But we got there. I did read about the horse ride that you can take but we chose not to. For one, it’s expensive, and more importantly, I read nothing but bad things about most of the tourist horse rides in Europe and about how the horses are worked all day long, often without any water in soaring temperatures up grueling and steep roads. And this really wasn’t that hard for us to just bite the bullet and walk the rest of the way once the bus drops you off. We waited in front of the castle for our 3:40 tour to start. The views were stunning. We were entertained by the hang gliders soaring down the mountain down to the valley below.

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The tour of Neuschwanstein wasn’t as personable or enjoyable as the Hohenschwangau because it was an enormous crowd and we were shuffled from room to room and you could hardly hear the guide of you were in the back and your group was particularly loud. However, the castle was beautiful. Every inch. And I got to see the King’s toilet. Wow. Talk about a porcelain throne. Well worth it. And the views – these people were so lucky.

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After the tour we walked down to Marienbrücke to see the picture perfect view of Schloss Neuschwanstein. It took me a little bit of convincing myself to walk across it, but I finally did it. This picture looking down at Pöllat Gorge does nothing for how terrifying it really was. If you see the picture of the bridge below, you will see how far down the gorge actually was.

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After Marienbrücke we followed the trail of smoke to the bus that took us down the hill back to the village where we hopped on the bus to Füssen. We had a little bit of time before our 7:05pm train back to Munich, so we decided to have dinner there. We got a recommendation for a place that served hamburgers and we initially rolled our eyes at the thought of hamburgers because it sounded so American but this person explained that hamburgers actually came from Germany. In Hamburg, no less! We had a lovely dinner (these were great burgers!), but unfortunately got no pics of that. Interestingly enough, I have since learned that a man named Louis Lassen sold the first hamburger in the U.S. in 1900. We got home a little before 10pm. We were tired and went right to bed. Or at least that’s what my memory is telling me. I wish I knew where my travel journal was!

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It was an awesome day and I am so glad that we got to see Neuschwanstein. My parents had told us about their visit to Neuschwanstein growing up and it was truly a treat to finally see it myself. The views of this area; the Alps, Austria, Bavaria, Forggensee Lake – all of it were worth every second, every breath of smoke that I had to inhale, every step up that steep hill, my one ice cube in my coke, my mediocre pizza, the throngs of people we had to endure – they all made up for it. And these castles were better than any Sleeping Beauty castle, trust me.

All pictures taken by either us or our friends Jason & Julie. I forgot our SD card on this day so I had to borrow theirs about half way through. So I’ve borrowed some of their pics for this post.

This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Munich: Day 1 – Part 3

And lastly… part 3 of our first completely fun-filled, tiring, but thrilling and enlightening day in Munich. Read about Part 1 and 2 here and here.

After the Residenz we moseyed through the Englischer Garten (#4 on TripAdvisor) which is a large park, actually larger than Central Park in NYC. It was beautiful. Rabbits, birds, swan, and surfers everywhere. No, seriously. They have this little spot where there is a standing wave and the locals like to get their surf on and it was quite amusing (and totally surprising) to catch in the middle of a park – in Munich! We so enjoyed our time and each other’s company here. We stopped at the Chinesischer Turm and had pretzels, beer, brats, the best chicken EVER, cokes, and fries. It was delicious. As we were leaving, it started to get really dark and everyone around us started leaving in a hurry so we did, too! I believe we got rained on on the walk home, but it wasn’t so bad. We survived. :)

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Our first day in Munich (and I believe our only full day?) was awesome and our hearts were already starting to fall for Germany in general. Up next: Neuschwanstein, Nuremberg, Salzburg, and Dachau.

This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Munich: Day 1 – Part 2

You can read Part 1 here.

It’s about time I try to finish this day off. However, I couldn’t quite fit it all into one post. We did SO much this day and took way too many pictures. Your gain. :)

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After the market and lunch we walked down a busy street until we ran into Asamkirche (my intention of course, as I put it on my list to see at the very beginning of our planning stages!). Asamkirche was a private church built by the Asam brothers in the 1700’s, although they were later forced to make it accessible to the public after much resistance from citizens. This place was beautiful. Wood, gold, and frescoes adorned this place in every nook. It’s rated #2 on TripAdvisor’s places to see in Munich and it was in our top 3 church/chapel/basilicas that we saw on our entire trip. I highly recommend it as it doesn’t take very long since it’s no bigger than a couple of bedrooms (1 row of pews) and it’s free!

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After that we headed back to our room to shower and change clothes as we were finally able to officially check in. Our room was tiny but adorable and had such character and like I said before, our host, Christophe was the BEST. I think I was here trying to either blog or write an email to our parents. Note: there was a shared toilet room down the hall with the other guests (although our traveling companions were the only other guests) and each room had a sink and a shower. It was exactly what I thought of when I thought of Europe!

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After relaxing, we headed towards the Residenz (#17 on TripAdvisor) and toured the Palace of the Bavarian royals. I tried to only include the “important” pics as we took entirely too many here of things (jewelry, crowns, furniture, beds, etc.) that as I look back now, I really don’t care about, but you know, it was one of those moments when you’re there and you just get carried away!

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Don’t get me wrong, it was worth every minute we spent there, and we spent a lot! We didn’t do Versailles in Paris or the Pitti Palace in Florence, so this was just fine a taste of palace life for us. We spent several hours at the Residenz – maybe 2 or 3 and it was room after room after room of over the top opulence. I was impressed with how much was open to the public and how much original furnishings they still had there. We did the residence and the treasury. We saw the highlights: the antiquarium, hall of mirrors, the grottenhof, the ancestral gallery and the great family tree, and of course saw all the crown jewels and Saint George’s statue in the treasury. It was a great glimpse into Bavarian history and I was very glad we stopped in. It was relatively inexpensive at $12/pp and was not crowded at all so we could roam as we please.

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Statue of Saint George

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The OG Crazy Eyes.

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The solid gold plates they ate off of. What???

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The Antiquarium

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The Ancestral Gallery; where the king took his guests through first to impress them (other parts of the palace were very barren).

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The Grottenhof

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The Bavarian Family Tree… whoa!

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Statue of Maximillian I

Maximillian I Lastly, we did Englischer Garten and the Chinesischer Turm beer garden for dinner before turning in. But I’ll save those for their own post. :)

This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Munich: Day 1

I had better intentions of writing this post sooner but I seem to have temporarily (I hope anyways) lost my travel journal that I wrote while in Europe. I know, right? I have been looking every night after work through different boxes in the garage and I’m trying not to freak out, I know it’s somewhere, I just haven’t found it yet! So, I’m writing this post on pure memory here. Forgive me if it’s sketchy. This was a big day so it’s probably going to be at least 2, maybe 3 posts. Be prepared.

Sleeping on the train was… well, okay. It wasn’t a great sleep but it wasn’t awful. I was kind of anxious the whole time about sleeping in and missing our stop even though I was pretty sure that the conductor wasn’t going to let that happen as they wake you up check your tickets in the morning. Still, a fear. But we got there early in the morning (7:15!), figured out how to get to the city center (Germany’s transportation was very nice!), and then the fun began. I say that with a little bit, no a lot of bit of sarcasm… we had such a hard time finding our Pension (the lovely Pension am Jakobsplatz). It led to a lot of frustration between the four of us and probably got us off to a rocky start in Germany. I think the least amount of time we could do with those heavy packs on our back, the better, and not being able to find our “place” to set them down was not helpful. But, like much things on this trip (and in life), we found it and everything worked out. We couldn’t check in yet that early, but our host, Christoph was wonderful and he let us drop our stuff off while he readied our rooms and we went and got some breakfast. I can’t say enough about him. He did so much for us.

So, breakfast. This was my second favorite breakfast of the trip. I still crave and salivate at the thought of the buns that we ate that morning (and a couple others that we went back for during our stay in Munich). So. Good. I have been telling myself for the past, oh, almost 3 years that I am going to make some myself and I still haven’t gotten around to it, but I will. We found this place on a side street not too far from our pension – I have no idea what it’s called, so I’ll just include a picture of the outside of it called Café Frischhut – Die Schmalznudel. In fact, I’m going to include entirely too many pictures of our breakfast because I loved it so much. It was seemingly nothing special, but these buns called, Krapfen, were like magic. Warm yeasty buns filled with apricot jam and dusted with sugar. I could have eaten a dozen. And a hot chocolate for me, coffee for Dan.

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After breakfast we headed through the big market, Viktualienmarkt and did a little sensory tease while we continued to wait until about 10 for our pension. There was everything here and it was beautiful, delicious, wonderful, colorful, stinky (cheese!), friendly, floral, and we couldn’t wait to explore it even more later! This market completely put the market we went to in Paris to complete shame.

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After our quick glimpse of the market we went to the Marienplatz and saw the Glockenspiel on the Neues Rathaus and then we climbed the tower of Peterskirche which is the oldest church in Munich and perhaps the originating point of the entire city. There was a service going on so everybody was being shushed and we couldn’t take any pics up close of the beautiful altar or the relic of Munditia but that’s okay. The climb was my first of the entire trip and it was rough but I’m so glad I did it. The views were fantastic. We couldn’t see the Alps like some of the reviews said (maybe it was too cloudy?), but we still saw enough to make our jaws drop and just seeing the skyline and the rooftops of this German city was amazing and absolutely worth it.

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After that climb we made our way across the Marienplatz to another church, the Frauenkirche, or the “Pamela Church” named after the two spires you can see in the picture above. ;) It was nice and cool in there and we rested on the pews for a bit. Afterwards we watched the Glockenspiel (very touristy attraction of marionette-like puppets and music) and we listened in on a tour as I was videotaping where I learned that there are a million videos on YouTube of it, so I promptly stopped. Below you can see the large crowds that gather to watch the Glockenspiel.

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Typical Bavarian attire: Lederhosen

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And afterwards we were good and ready (aka hot, sweaty, and tired) for some lunch: beer and brats. So we went back to the glorious Viktualienmarkt and found a beer garden and had some delicious food.

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And then we explored the market a little more and loved it even more. I think it was one of my favorite things in all of Germany, if not my most favorite.

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And that’s where I’ll leave you for now. Because the market place is a good last image to have in your mind. In the words of Finn, “Yum! Yum!” We were well on our way to loving Munich (and Germany!) and have much more to share from this day!

Update 5/3: OMG one of my most favorite bloggers, the everywhereist.com just blogged recently about her wonderful experience at my favorite cafe where she tried another pastry that we didn’t. Oh well, next time we’re in Munich! And KT – heed both of our advice, try them both and GO THERE!

This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Paris Street Art

We saw so much Paris street art, we couldn’t stop snapping pics. I love all of the time that people put into making these incredible statements all over the cities that we visited in Europe and Paris was especially vibrant in this area. In fact, I never realized how big the street art scene was in Paris. These were all taken in the Montmartre/Abbesses area. Click on the image to make it larger.

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Paris: Day 4

I’m squeezing in a Europe post before the end of the year…

I can’t remember what time we woke up on our last day in Paris and I didn’t write it down, but I know we woke up refreshed because we went to bed so early the night before. We packed up (our bags were really heavy because we were trying to be more efficient by having less bags so we packed our backpacks full and had no additional bags to carry), showered, checked out of our hotel. We walked to the Metro/RER and took it to the Gare de l’est station. We found the luggage lockers and dropped off our bags (just a little non-important note: our locker was 25 E (Med) and cost us €7 for the day) and then went and got some breakfast at Paul in the station. The usual suspects: pain au chocolat, cafe for Dan, and a Coke for me.

We then took the Metro to the Palais Garnier, or the Opera de Paris, otherwise known as the setting for the Phantom of the Opera. And it was beautiful. Truly a treat. It was probably the grandest and most over the top thing we saw on our trip and we absolutely loved it. I felt like I was in a Disney Movie and I needed to sing and dance from room to room. Beauty and the Beast to be exact. We bought some souvenirs here; a ballet slipper for my niece and a pill case for Dan. Almost every square inch was adorned with gold, the grand staircase, the painted ceiling by Chagall, along with the chandelier by Garnier, and the foyer were the highlights.

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After spending about an hour there we walked past the Galleries Lafayette up towards Montmartre. We found a Metro that took us the rest of the way (2 stops). We took the 180 steps up the circular steps of Abbesses Metro Stop which was crazy long and felt like it would never ever end.

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But we made it to the top. And were greeted with the cute artistic center of Paris that I had read about. This is where I had actually wanted to stay but our travel mates wanted to stay more central and so we did. Don’t get me wrong, I love where we stayed, it was convenient, but I do think if we do Paris again I’ll listen to my gut because this place was adorable and we loved it. Dan took a million pictures here of all the art on the walls, which will be another post in itself.

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We found a post office and finally mailed the postcards we bought in England and sent them to our families and ourselves. We then visited a church and lo and behold we ran into our friends yet AGAIN here. Not planned, just coincidence. So crazy! So we stuck together for the rest of the day. After the church we had some yummy gelato and then made our way down to the Montmartre Cemetary where 500 pictures just wasn’t enough. It was so cool as this definitely was something we do not see at home. Dan and I were determined to find Edgar De Gas’ grave, which we did after quite some searching. And we saw a black cat. Creepy. And this place was covered in lady bugs. Strange.

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After spending quite a bit of relaxing time here in such a seemingly dreary place even though the sun was shining down and we didn’t feel like we were dancing near the graves of people from centuries before us, we headed back to the center of Montmartre to see the famed, Moulin Rouge. Well, what we could of it anyways. It was covered in tour buses. We ate at Paris’ version of Burger King, Quick and had some lunch, payed €.20 to use their restroom.

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Then we walked uphill to Van Gogh’s former home and Picasso’s old studio. What’s cool about this area was that they had a fountain outside that you could fill your water bottle up with fresh water and it was tasty and very refreshing. This was a particularly warm day and sun baked down on us for most of it.

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We thought we had walked a lot that day, and taken a lot of steps (like the 180 I mentioned we took up the Metro stop that morning) but then we saw what we had to do to get to the Sacré Cœur Basilica. We could have taken the funicular but the 4 of us crazily decided not to pay and to walk it, however slowly we needed to. All 234 steps. Yeah, we got our exercise that day for sure.

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But when we got to the top… it was worth it. The Basilica was beautiful. Completely packed with people. peddlers, artists looking to make a buck by drawing people’s portraits, pigeons, you name it. Needless to say, we didn’t pay to climb the dome. We had had enough climbing that day and my knees definitely were done. But the view was enough to satisfy any need we had to do anything else that day. And as a bonus, we got to see the Eiffel Tower one. last. time.

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And when we saw a train to take us down to the bottom of the hill for €5 each, you bet your ass we took it. And there we saw a man get stabbed which was very interesting and at that moment we couldn’t wait to leave Paris and get to our next destination: Munich! We got to the train station, got our luggage, and slept in the train car, the 4 of us bunked up together awaiting our next adventure. :)

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This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Paris: Day 3

After the adventurous night we had the night before, we really let ourselves sleep in this morning. Our alarm went off at 9 and we snoozed until 9:30 or 9:45! We finally got ourselves up and got ready and took the RER to the Montparnasse area to start our day at the Catacombes. The line when we got there was already crazy long so we decided to get some breakfast first. We found a cafe and had the usual, although it was nowhere near as good as the meal we had the morning before. But it sufficed.

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It was 11:15 by the time we got back in line for the Catacombes. We were in it for about 40 minutes when lo and behold our travel partners, Jason & Julie walked by! We waited with them the rest of the way (a total of an hour in line… ugh it was so long and boring just standing there inching along!).

The Catacombes were dark and cool. And of course, there were piles of bones everywhere and there were the insides of skulls and marrow still in them. Two-thirds of the way through an alarm went off telling us to evacuate due to security reasons so that really put a pep in our step and we started rushing through a bit quicker. It turned out to be a false alarm, thank goodness, but also annoying. =/

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We finally found the street level (up 83 steps which killed my knees!) and the closest Metro stop where we said goodbye to Jason & Julie and took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs des Elysees. We had a little French puppet show while on the way which was quite entertaining. Oh the things we saw in Europe, people were so creative and lively!

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We got to the Arc de Triomphe and I had every intention of going to the top because I had read that it had an elevator, so I was really looking forward to it. However, of course, it was out of order on our visit so I couldn’t go. Dan climbed to the top up the really cool spiral staircase and took pics while I waited at the bottom by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and wrote in my journal.

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Afterwards we walked down the Champs des Elysees and both thought it was way over-hyped, crowded, and overall unenjoyable. A lot of really expensive clothing stores which Dan and I don’t have any interest in even at home, let alone in Paris where our exchange rate was ridiculously high! The only cool part about it was thinking about the history; thinking about Hitler as he paraded down this very street when he took France during WWII and then when the American troops did the same after liberating France. We watched some street dancers honing their skills and then made our way down to the Place de la Concorde where all the beheadings happeneding during the French Revolution.

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And then we spent some time in one of our favorite museums, the Orangerie, that was right in the Tuileries Garden where we watched people racing sailboats in a fountain. I love impressionist paintings so much, and especially Monet, so I was really excited for this gallery. It housed 8 of Monet’s Nymphéas and were displayed how Monet himself originally wanted them to be seen – in a circular room with little architecture or decor and natural light coming from the ceiling. It was really amazing as I had no idea how big those paintings were. Beautiful and quite amazing to see his brush strokes so close. So serene! It was small, way less crowded than the Orsay and way more enjoyable. It was there that we both also fell in love with another impressionist artist, Chaim Soutine.

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After the Orangerie we walked across the Seine, saw the National Assembly where the terms “left-wing” and “right-wing” originally started during the French Recolution. Thanks, France! :P

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And what would a trip to Paris be without at least one kissing picture? I spared you our kiss on the Eiffel Tower but then decided I didn’t care for this day. :)

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We decided to head back early this day as we were tired and liked that we kept it kind of light. We took the RER back to our neighborhood, stopped at a Chinese restaurant for take away. It was so good to just sit in our room, relax, and eat some tasty Chinese food! We sort of pigged out – I think our bodies were craving calories. We got sweet & sour pork, spicy beef, egg rolls, won tons, thai & white rice! Afterwards we thought we’d head down and walk around the Luxembourg Gardens but it was closed when we got there so we just went back to the hotel and took turns taking baths and then passed out.

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It was a good day. :)

This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Paris: Day 2 – Part 2

After the Hotel des Invalides we were pretty famished. And we had been looking forward for many months to one of Paris’ famous markets. We chose the Rue Cler Market because it was near the Eiffel Tower. Our plan was to grab a few items and then head to the Champs de Mars and sit and enjoy the view of the Eiffel while snacking on our loot. We also hadn’t decided at that point if we wanted to do the Eiffel Tower or not so this gave us time to think and talk about it. We loved the market. So much that I had to share almost all of our pictures. :)

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We walked about a block until we saw IT. The Lady Eiffel. There she was. And all the people sitting in the park below her with their lovers, their friends, their family, their wine, and their dogs. It was picture perfect. And our mind was made up. We didn’t come all the way to Paris not to do the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t care how touristy some of the forums said it was. Or how long the line was going to be. We had to do it. So, we sat there and enjoyed our picnic dinner of salami, pig snout (yuck), mustard, cherries, crusty bread, brie, and delicious water along with dogs chasing eachother along with pigeons and the comforting sounds of conversations in all kinds of different languages all around us. It was amazing.

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Then we got in line. The looooong Disneyland-ish line. Where we pushed and shoved by the people behind us for the rest of the night. We were very annoyed but still determined to enjoy our night up the Eiffel Tower. I can’t remember how long we waited now. 1-2 hours. And then the elevator to the top was really long because you have to wait in line once you are done on whatever level you get off on. So, there was a lot of waiting but it was still magical. We were on the very top when the tower first lit up for the night. It was beautiful. And we kissed. And we loved Paris. <3

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You could see every landmark of Paris from up there. Of course. The Hotel des Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame Cathedral. All of them. And they light them up special at night so that you can see them. Loved it!

When we finally got down to the bottom we got some sparkling water and that’s where I first found out that I hate sparkling water. Yuck! How can people drink that stuff? It’s like soda with no flavor. Eww, not a fan. I think people drink it because the bottles look cool but other than that it’s crap. I think we may have also got some food but I don’t remember now. Maybe a crepe? Or a hotdog? I don’t know I’m just reading this sign. I feel like we would have got some food. I know Dan went back and bought me a Coke because I was so not happy with my sparkling water. He drank it. We then took a night cruise up and down the Seine and it was wonderful just to sit and relax for about an hour after standing in line for several hours and walking all day. And of course seeing Paris, the City of Lights at night was just magical! We were so happy.

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After our cruise is where things got a little hairy for us. We didn’t know the RER closed after a certain time at night. And it was midnight at this point. So, we had a slight minute of panic as we looked at our map of where we were at the Eiffel and where our hotel was in the St. Germain district and realized how very very far that would be to walk. But then we just decided, we better get going if we didn’t want to be walking til 5am.

How we found out it was closed was where it was scary. We would get underground where the RER stops were and then realize after walking for a while that this stop was all chained up and closed. And we’d have to head back out. Then we’d find another underground we’d try. And some of these were pretty sketchy with a lot of drunk people in them and several times in our heads we thought people were going to corner us (since it was one way in and one way out) and rob us if we’d hear talking. And we had no idea how to call a cab. That’s when we finally decided just to start walking. It was about halfway there we found a Metro stop that was open that took us all the way to the Notre Dame Cathedral and we knew that walk wasn’t too bad back to our hotel from there because we did it the day before. So, we felt pretty good then. And we made it. We never felt so good when our hotel came into view and then once we got in and fell into our beds! We soaked our feet briefly in scalding hot bath water and then crashed just after 2am.

I will say that other than the brief times underground that we were a little anxious about the situation, we didn’t actually ever feel unsafe in Paris at night. And Paris was so ALIVE. We loved it.

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This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!