A castle? Yoshi can’t go in those.

The winds and bends of the roads and the surrounding fields of wildflowers and orchards made for a lovely drive from Hechingen Village to Burg Hohenzollem. As we were nearing the castle and snaking up the mountain I was so excited I kept having Kenny stop the car so I could take a picture of the nearing castle at every bend… I will spare you the majority of these photos, as they are very much alike. However, here is my favorite! The seemingly endless coiling road came to an end about ¾’s of the way up the mountain. We were met with the neon vest and open hand of a parking attendant. We paid 2 euro to park and wait for the next shuttle up the remainder of the mountain. Meanwhile they had a little pub and a shop of some of the most random castle paraphernalia you can imagine. Here are a few examples…

There were also ridiculously sharp swords and battle-axes labeled unconvincingly as fake, as well as dragon figurines and the usual wall of alcohol that has become a commonplace of sorts in the German shops we have happened across. After dress-up we headed towards the shuttle. We got on the bus and sat down in the teeny seats. Poor Kenny barely fit… but we were so excited!

…and then a wonderfully ridiculous human being sat down right in front of us. You haven’t seen a bowl-cut until you have seen this guy. It was incredible…

I have never seen it’s equal.

Anyway! We finally made our ascent. The shuttle arrived at the castle grounds and we bought a ticket for the “tour grandeur”. We were informed we won’t be able to understand a word of it (obviously), but they gave us a castle guide in English! Which was all we needed:) The way up the castle was really cool; consisting of a drawbridge, another winding path made of stone, and a charming garden courtyard.

I knew the view was going to be amazing, but there are not words to describe the feeling I got when I looked over that edge. Kenny and I, both being from Midwest America, will always appreciate such things. You could see for miles and miles all the way around the castle. We sat on a bench in silence for nearly five minutes just taking it all in. I was freaking out during this picture… He wanted to lay down!? I said nooooo way!

Also, Kenny downloaded this really cool app (he was obsessed with it) that allows you to take panoramic photos! Though, as you can see it’s a little on the squiggly side and it couldn’t exactly figure out where I was every time… Side note: Above I am imagining those little stone hobbles along the wall to be where Legolas would stand and just murk people.

Here, a nice (and fluent: low levels of awkwardness) German couple took our picture too! Surrounding the castle were several statues representing kings that have ruled here in the past dating back to the 16 hundreds. Kenny was bound and determined to take a picture of every last one. However, (for the sake of my sanity in trying to read the crumbling inscriptions) I am only going to post the first and the last out of the ten. It was rather interesting to see how the different fashions have changed over the centuries. Why would people ever stop wearing capes?

1640-1688

1861-1888

Since the castle was at the very peak of a mountain it was difficult to get a decent picture… not for lack of trying of course…

So incredibly beautiful. Moving right along, as you can see Kenny is headed into the building. Unbeknownst to us, the internal guided tour was to begin at 6:00. There is no such thing as “Mayers” time in Germany… I mean, this thing started at 6:00 sharp. Naturally, Kenny and I moseyed in around 6:06. I’m pretty sure it was uncomfortable for everyone involved. The door was locked so we had to knock. The kindly old man that was to be our tour guide let us in, and was most likely reassuring us that it was alright to be late… although of that we can never really be sure. We just kept shrugging our shoulders and saying “English, sorry,” then pointing at our English guide book… total idiots. Also, to make matters worse we were just snapping photos in every direction only to discover this sign when the crowd dispersed to head into the next room…

Oops…

So that is our excuse for the poor quality of photographs you are about to see. We had to be in stealth mode.

All four walls of the first room were adorned with an elaborately painted family tree. Naturally, it reminded me of the Black family tree in the fifth Harry Potter film… R.I.P. Sirius. 

The room below featured beautiful paintings: depictions of both actual historical events and fables from centuries past. Unfortunately, due to the big and bright windows, they were overexposed.

However, the next hallway had a couple of fancy mirrors…

Also, there we found the weirdest stained glass window in existence… Seriously though, quadruple high-five for anyone that can tell me what this thing is.

Every room we entered was more aesthetically pleasing than the next.

The last stop of the tour was an armory and a room full of display cases. Each with various artifacts from the different time periods of the castle’s existence.

(Ignore the panoramic squiggles.)

Although we did not understand a single word from anyone throughout the tour, it was still an amazing experience. The inside of the castle was just as magnificent as the outside promised. Kenny and I had another unforgettable day together:) Plus, we finally quenched our thirst!!

Cheers!

Bookmyer-Land!

Guten tag! Kenny had another free afternoon yesterday so we took full advantage. As per my beautiful grandmother’s recommendation, Kenny and I ventured to Hechingen: the ancestral home of the Bookmyer’s (…though it was shockingly void of slot machines and small yappy dogs…). The village of Hechingen is barely 15 minutes south of our Dußlingen so it was a very short and pleasant drive. Also, conveniently enough the castle of Hohenzollem, (our destination #2), was just another 10 minutes up a mountain. Imagine our excitement to see this looming off the horizon…

I was bouncing in my seat and half expecting to meet Dumbledore after that sighting. Anyway, after a couple displays of classic Kenny road rage we arrived in the village of Hechingen. The place was beautiful. The town square was very modern; obviously the newest part of the village as we were not met with anything of the sort when we left the square.

First order of business: I needed my caffeine fix. We walked into a mod looking café only to stare at the gibberish menu board. I sincerely hate ordering here… I feel like a baby-idiot. Nevertheless, I placed my order: iced coffee. This was a grievous error. The nice lady gave me a face of pure confusion. So, naturally, I said the word “ice” a few more times and put my fingers apart the approximate size of an ice cube thinking this would help. Well, like a light bulb went off inside her she went to work. When she pulled out the ice cream scoop I knew I was in trouble. I received a large mug complete with a bitter espresso mixture poured over vanilla ice cream and a mound of whipped cream. I blame myself, really… my level of awkwardness was at an all time high.

After we finished the weird espresso float we walked around the shops in the square. Until we happened upon a shop we had no choice but to enter…

LOOK who we found!

AND LOOK what we bought!!!

I am sorry Marge… the Coke puzzle is getting put on the back burner to make room for our Disney friends.

Moving forward, besides fabulous puzzle places, Hechingen features some beautiful old buildings.

As well as this creepy thing that confused us…

As I was saying previously, after we left the square the village sort of crept back in time. My personal favorite was the cobblestone streets. Kenny had mentioned that it was clear these were not created for the purpose of cars. Immediately I imagined horses trotting through the narrow streets and big wooden wheels making for a bumpy horse drawn carriage ride.

Until I saw this in a store front window…

That shirt really smacked me in the face back to the present…

Up next in our wandering session, we stumbled upon these lovely family crests.

Unfortunately we have absolutely no idea what this means.

You can’t really see it (mainly because I botched the photo and completely cut it in half) but the farthest one to the right does not have a family name underneath it… So, I pretended that it’s the Bookmyer family coat of arms:)

Meanwhile, the sun was beating hotter and the hills were getting hillier and Kenny and I were developing a thirst. Hence, Kenny darting off at the speed of light towards this beer umbrella.

It was closed… Apparently from 12-2:30 shops and bars take naps. Needless to say, we were not pleased. We trudged back to the car sweaty and parched. Although, on the bright side, we did discover the deal with the creepy thing…

It’s a fountain!!! Still creepy though…

It was really fun touring the village of Hechingen. Just walking down the streets with the possibility that my ancestors have done the same. Thanks for the suggestion G-Money:) Next stop: the castle! Cheers!

Goin’ to the chapel and we’re… Wait what…?

After feasting on grapes we made our winding way up the mountain towards Grabkapelle Rotenberg. Kenny did some truly impressive parallel parking on a steep incline and we made the remainder of the trek up the mountain on foot. Luckily there were bathrooms just a couple yards up and they were impeccably clean. I mean, we are talking cleaner than the cleanest gas station/fast food bathroom you have ever been in… Anyway, once we turned the corner to the steepest valley we were floored. The view was absolutely breathtaking…

We continued our hike and were greeted by none other than the ice cream man! We (mainly Kenny) were too anxious to stop and decided (I was assured) we would get it on the trek down… Anyway, the structure that we met when we got there was beautiful. Granted, I am no castle expert but I am quite certain they are usually larger than this…

We were curious enough to pay 4 euros to tour the inside. The inside was gorgeously crafted…

Even the floor was beautiful, a rod iron grate that gave a glimpse of a downstairs that we didn’t realize existed!

We finished touring the upper level and headed for the stairs. Then, before we went down, the woman manning the desk handed us a pamphlet in English! Everything made sense… and the story is beautiful. The building (built in the early 1820’s) used to belong to the dukes of Wurttemberg, and it was significantly larger…

(Side note: evidently “grabkapelle” means grave chapel…) Apparently, King Wilhelm I had it torn down and then erected in memory of his beloved wife Catharina, who died at a young age. The location was symbolic as it was one of his queen’s favorite places. This chapel on the hill is now the monument of eternal love and is considered the most romantic spot in Baden-Wurttemberg! In fact, the inscription above the entrance to the chapel is interpreted as King Wilhelm’s promise to his Russian bride: “Love never dies.”

Is that not the sweetest thing you have ever heard?! Moving on… we finally descended down the steps…

(A picture of the really cool see-through grate that is now on the ceiling!!)

…and entered into a beautiful mausoleum. The tombs and effigies were striking white marble.

The best part about that room was the echo-factor… The acoustics were ridiculous and Kenny and I had some completely mature fun with it. Although I will say, if you ever find yourself in the lower level of Grabkapelle Rotenberg do not try and whisper into opposite walls with anyone because it does not work and you cannot hear them.

Kenny and I both loved that old grave chapel; the story behind it was really moving. However, our empty stomachs eventually forced us to begin our descent down the mountain, but NOT without my ice cream!!

Finally, we got back in the car and headed for Stuttgart to have dinner… We were both craving sushi and were both bitterly disappointed when the restaurant we map-quested didn’t exist (except that really it did exist…but was just closed on Sundays and really difficult to find) …So we went to a mongolian buffet (a lot like Flattop Grill) which, while it could never take the place of sushi because nothing can, sufficed because I was famished and Kenny will eat anything. Finally on our way home we stopped at the place with the incredible views just off the highway and took this little beauty with the setting sun illuminating the valley below…

Kenny and I truly had the most amazing day and I am looking forward to our next adventure! Until then! Cheers!

I love wine. Wine, wine, wine…

After Schloss Rosenstein we continued our adventure with more help from Google and Navi. Grabkapelle Rotenburg was listed as a “must see” so we plugged it in and began our ascent up a winding mountain. En route to our next castle we met with hills upon hills of rows upon rows of some “wein” plant. As it happens we came to find out (according to our Google translate app) that we have entered into a mini wine country. Needless to say I was pumped. I love wine. We had to stop anyway, because the landscape was stunning….

(Side note: I am 99% sure I was on Kenny’s shoulders for this picture) Now, one annoying thing about Europe is that it completely shuts down on Sundays: everything, aside from restaurants, is closed. So when we walked up we were not surprised to discover the “weingut” wasn’t open. However, we still had our fun!

I am not sure which I enjoyed more: the magnificent views, or getting to sneak a taste of all of the different grapes! I made sure to get a picture of our Cabernet grapes for you, Liz.

They were certainly the best grapes we had ever tasted, it was really cool to taste the differences between the grapes that represented each separate wine. The Reisling grapes were just as sweet as the wine itself! Go figure! The endless rows all along the mountainside were truly incredible.

We cannot wait to go back to the Collegium Wirtenburg when it is open and buy a couple bottles of the wine from the grapes we tasted! Onward to our castle! Cheers!

It was no Hogwarts but…

Sunday was magical! Upon arriving in Europe I was most taken aback by it’s natural beauty. There is myriad of hills, valleys, trees, and flowery fields all along the drive from Stuttgart’s airport to our little town of Dußlingen (ß = “ss”). However, what I really wanted to see was a castle. Thus, Sunday we set out on a castle hunt. Obviously, we have no castles in the ‘Mericas (unless you count Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas… which I know my mother does) so I was doubly excited! These “castle hunt” pictures will be the first of many!!

Our first excursion outside of Tübingen began with a lot of insanely fast driving (not my fault) and a near trip-cancelling experience due to some spilled McDonald’s coffee (possibly my fault). Anyway the expedition made us quite thankful for our GPS… that of which I have decided to name “Navi”. Our drive through Stuttgart was nuts… there is no rhyme or reason to the streets here. Kenny was very impressive and ninja-like with his newly honed manual shifting skills. Although the roads were confusing we enjoyed very spectacular views just off the highway. However a minor speed bump hit us when the address we searched via iPhone and entered into Navi brought us to a large industrial building… sincerely hoping this was not our castle we drove around the corner to a beautiful park and stumbled onto Schloss Rosenstein.

This particular castle was destroyed and made anew in the 1900’s thus it appeared almost modern looking.

Rosenstein has ornately carved stone lions on either side of the castle… As I was taking pictures I had to wait because so many kids wanted their pictures taken on the lion’s back…

The castle itself was beautiful but I thought the sculptures surrounding it were the real gems there.

Also, these statues instituted the “don’t give the camera to Kenny” idea…

unless you want pictures of stone butts…

Anyway! As you may see in stone butt picture #2 there is a beautiful garden behind me; featuring blooming red roses (my favorite flower), ivy laden stone pillars and hedges trimmed to perfection.

We even (albeit awkwardly) asked a couple to take our picture in the garden…

and also my attempt…

Schloss Rosenstein was beautiful and an excellent first stop on our “castle hunt”! Cheers!

Hello world!

Greetings from across the pond! Welcome to my blog, where I will recount the joys and struggles of overseas living. I am not entirely sure if anyone will read these ramblings, aside from my mother and my mother-in-law, but that is fine because writing is fun and great and super. Now, this being my very first post (cue champagne and fireworks), I am commemorating it with a glass of red wine…Mom, I hope you have a VT in your hands! I will begin with detailing the fabulosity of yesterday with my darling husband in a short while… I simply wanted to get this first post over and done with! TA-DAAA (cue toasts and applause) Cheers!