Sümela Monastery is in Middle Earth

Last weekend, prior to the discovery of our fabulous new dog-friendly digs, Kenny and I were feeling pretty blue so we decided to get the hell outta dodge and explore a new area. We drove about two hours down the eastern … Continue reading

The Descent

As per usual I need to preface this blog post with an apology to my avid readers out there (moms/grandmas). I have no legitimate excuse for my excessive delay other then my addiction to the Game of Thrones series and that Kenny bought me a gym membership… However, to make up for it, I have some excellent photos for you guys! This post will finally conclude our trip to Zugspitze! Holy cow, that was a long time ago…

Mountain peaks are really cold, guys. Once the exhilaration wore off I could no longer feel my face. Thus, due to that and my admittedly incessant whining, we decided it was time to go! Lucky for us, a train was headed out within the hour. Except that the mountainside is too steep for trains and we had to take another lift car just to get to the train station. Kenny was hoping he had seen the last of these…

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Fortunately, this one was a larger than the last. Plus! There was the softest most adorable Lassie-dog on it! The “Lassie-dog” was named Duke.

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Contrary to my initial thought, the dog was named after the monarchical station, rather than the university. At least that’s what I gathered from his owner’s blank stares in reaction to my Blue Devils reference. My awkwardness strikes again.

The ride was short but, naturally, I managed a few breathtaking photography feats for you guys.
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Not even the Hogwarts express could work with those angles.

Not even the Hogwarts Express could work with those angles.

Also, awww… look how cute we are.

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And here is my happy Kenny about to step on solid ground.

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The train station turned out to be quite the charming little stop.

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The gift shop was pretty standard. Although we did find giant gloves for Kenny’s giant hands! The best part is that he has not even lost one yet; its been months! Additionally, there was an outdoor café. Clearly, it’s a popular place.

The view was incredible. The lack of guard rails provided equal parts excitement and terror.

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Also, there are some truly remarkable snowboarders out there, check this out.

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Those zigs and zags were intense.

Next, we visited the highest chapel in Germany: Maria Heimsuchung.

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Apparently this chapel, known as the “Chapel of Visitation” was consecrated by the Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI: very impressive. The inside was modest, yet beautiful.

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The quaint little chapel was well suited for the serenity of the mountainside.

We only had a few minutes before the train was to arrive so we took it all in, one last time.

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Kenny and I were both exhausted when we got on the train. We had such an amazing day. Here I am with a happy, tired Kenny.

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Now, here is a happy, crazy Kenny.

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Haha. Cheers!

Zenith of Zugspitze

I can’t lie to you guys, the fact that Kenny was able to wake up before 8am in a good mood almost impresses me more than the mountaintop scenery, and that is really saying something because -let me tell you- this stuff is GOOD. I can’t be sure whether it was the complimentary breakfast buffet or the excitement of the day that got him out of bed without x10 “snoozes,” but it truly was a moment of shock and awe.  After our traditional European (aka weird) breakfast and coffee we packed up our things, checked out, and put our stuff in the car. Luckily the mountain scaling business takes place right across the street from our hotel. After a little bit of awkward conversation we purchased our tickets for the train and the sky-lift and boarded the train. It was around this point in time when Kenny began to show signs of mild anxiety, however, he was not to the point of admitting it… yet.

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The train ride up the mountain was very scenic, which was fortunate because I could have moved faster than that thing. The outskirts of Garmisch have not yet reached the 21st century, to say the least. Goats, cows, horses and pretty much every barnyard friend you can imagine were were roaming the fields. Also, there were dozens of very primitive little wooden sheds with gigantic spikes jutting out of them (unfortunately we neglected to get a decent picture). These were either for storing hay or killing people… I can’t be sure.

Anywho! Finally the train managed to crawl it’s way to our next stop: the sky-lift station. PS Maddie, every time I say “sky-lift” I think of “Skyward Sword”?

Kenny, at this point, was visibly nervous. I think his biggest issue was the size of the thing… or lack thereof. After all, he is an extra large human being and this rather small “vehicle” will be scaling the mountain at an exceedingly sharp incline suspended over jagged rocks and ice…

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There was probably less than a foot of room above his head. Here is Kenny just lovin’ life…

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I, on the other hand, loved it! It was incredible, with every gradual movement more wonderment was revealed. This is Lake Eibsee mirroring the treetops from the surrounding mountains. It was really cool to the see different angles reflected as we ascended. DSCN0368

One of the lift cars in action.DSCN0377

Every time we went over one of these things it shook the car like crazy and Kenny was sure we were goin’ down. DSCN0370

There is no way to capture the magnitude of this angle we were traveling but that didn’t stop me from taking 15 pictures of it… Here are the best ones.DSCN0382

(Hey, it’s that tiny lake.)DSCN0391

At last we completed our ascent!DSCN0394

Next, we walked in the building and into tourist-land! Overpriced everything with a side of uselessness:) Except for the café section… coffee is never useless. Nevertheless we bypassed it, climbed three flights of stairs, and (finally) opened the doors to the most mind-blowing spectacle I ever did see.

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Fun fact: the “Summit Cross”marks the highest peak in Germany. It has been taken down twice, once on account of multiple lightening strikes and once after an American soldier shot it at the end of WWII! Third times the charm, I guess.

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We took a couple of lovely solo shots and waited for more people to arrive…DSCN0418DSCN0419

A nice German fellow helped us out with this one…

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We felt like we were on top of the world. We could stand in one spot and turn 360 degrees and we were able to see 4 different countries. No foolin’! Mountain peaks from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy were all visible! This particular mountain in the Bavarian Alps officially belongs to Germany but the border between Germany and Austria divides the mountain. Fun fact #2: apparently there used to even be a border checkpoint at the summit… although I cannot imagine how that would work.

Before I end this I just want you guys to know, because I know how you worry, I did get to drink coffee on top of the world…IMG_0467

Next post follows our journey down the mountain! Cheers!

Oh, just scalin’ some mountains…

Hey guys! Aren’t these breaks fun?!

Kenny and I have been a couple of boring turtles these past few weeks. So we decided the time was ripe for an adventure. About two weeks ago (mind you, this was at about 4AM after I had waited in the car for an hour at his away-game pick-up point) my darling husband announced a fabulous idea for a weekend getaway! First we will head to the Zugspitze mountain, the highest peak in Germany! Following, and on the way home, we will see Schloss Neuschwanstein, the castle Disney modeled Cinderella’s castle after! Needless to say, we got home, booked our hotel, and packed that instant. The next morning we got up bright and early (10AM) and began our (my) drive to the city of Garmisch – home of the tallest mountain in Germany! It really was a gorgeous day for a drive…

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Kenny wants it known to all that he -not me- took this photograph.

The drive was really excellent. As everyone knows, highways in Germany have large sections without speed limits. Let me just say: I was flying and Kenny was extremely jealous. I was going about 109 mph for probably 30 minutes straight and it was AWESOME.

Also, as Garmisch is located just near the border of Germany and Austria. I got to drive a manual car through the mountains of Austria like a badass. Meanwhile Kenny was holding his breath and white-knuckling the door handle… Some of those sharp turns had no guardrails. I mean, this is a mountain people,  c’mon! Anyway, we made it in one piece and arrived in the adorable town of Garmisch.

The town was set in a valley of the Nördliche Kalkalpen Mountain range… which in English we just call the Northern Limestone Alps (not as cool sounding.) We checked into our hotel, ascertained a map, and walked around the wee little town.

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DSCN0350We walked in the direction of food because I was famished and had been whining for the past half hour about it. We sat down to dinner just as the sun was setting behind the mountains. It was beautiful.

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We enjoyed the view with a couple of German beers and some tasty homemade pumpkin soup at a little corner restaurant. This is one of the many fantastic things about Germany: there are no Applebees or Ruby Tuesday’s types anywhere. Ma and Pa places are all around and everything is homemade and delicious.

After our relaxing dinner we walked around the village and popped into a couple of Christmas shops. Germany LOVES Christmas, almost as much as I do.

Anyway next we headed to the hotel and got freshened up for our big Sunday night on the village! We barhopped around to a couple of hotel bars (walking not driving, parents) and finally settled on the fabulous, “Salsalito’s.” This is where Kenny and I may or may not have gotten extremely intoxicated. Entirely not our fault – we had not seen a selection like this since the States…

IMG_1739Plus the bartender did not give me a vodka tonic when I ordered a vodka water! Big night!

Kenny and I were going on about 7 hours of sleep between us and had to wake up bright and early to catch our train up the mountain, thus we stumbled home at a decent hour.

Next post will be a big one! Our trip up the mountain of Zugspitze. Cheers!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMY! …also, Schloss Lichtenstein

First and foremost, before I begin, I would like to wish my beautiful mother a very happy 27th birthday. I could not ask for a better role model and friend. Your daughters and husband love you very much and are lucky to have you!

On to Schloss Lichtenstein! I am not going to lie to you people… these pictures are fantastic. This is largely thanks to Dr. Fritz (The Fritz’s are a very nice German family we have come to know), as he let me borrow one of his amazing cameras, that of which takes very high quality photographs. We also had a very beautiful subject. The castle of Lichtenstein seemed to have been plucked right out of the Middle Ages. It was not as grandiose as others we have seen, but it certainly had the most character. The castle is perched atop a stony mountainside. It being contrived mainly from stone as well, giving the illusion it has simply sprung up from the mountain itself.

Am I right??

As per usual, Kenny and I arrived just as the internal tour was starting. Naturally, the tour was entirely in German, but due to dumb luck, a woman in the tour was whispering translations of the whole thing to her two friends, whom of which (if my eavesdropping skills are up to par) were from New Zealand. Apparently, there has been a castle in this location since 1200. However, it has been destroyed twice and the current structure has only been around since the 1800’s.

Side note: forgive the horrible quality of the photos from inside the castle… picture-taking was frowned upon, thus, we had to be sneaky again.

The first room we entered had painted murals from floor to ceiling.We also found these rather interesting paintings on either side of the room. The first is Count Eberhard I, Duke of Württemburg and the second is Count Herzog Ulrich von Württemburg. Each painting features a peculiar phrase at the top.

“Attempto” meaning “I dare”

“Stat Animo” meaning “I have it in mind”

How embarrassed must Count Herzog be? What a lame caption to be eternally associated with. At least Count Eberhard gets to be daring…

Anyway! The next room was really beautiful. It boasted gorgeous stained glass windows overlooking the valley below, as well as sundry suits of armor and weaponry.

Apparently, according to the New Zealand lady, boys as young as 12 and 13 were made to fight as well (Kenny and I had originally deemed them midget-armor). The following armor was designed to fit children (not for Tyrions).

Oddly enough the coolest part of the room was a rock…This is a part of the mountain from underneath the castle; they literally built the castle around this chunk of mountain for fear of disrupting the mountain’s foundation.

The next room was the “gentlemen’s drinking quarters”. It featured more elaborately painted murals and all sorts of old-fashioned drinking paraphernalia. But first, this room had the most beautiful hearth I ever did see…

What a pretty green color!

The room, in itself, was comedy. The mural depicted men doing manly things… which in these times (still accurate if you ask me) meant drinking, hunting, fighting, and smoking a pipe… Believe it or not, this tubelike thing is a champagne flute. It takes 4 men to wield it and holds up to 3 bottles of champagne, if memory serves. These guys clearly liked to party.

The next rooms we saw were the part of the castle that the owners would use to entertain their guests. These rooms were more elaborately decorated than the rest, gaudy even.

Side note: what people did before technology… Below, there is a small, fancy sort of gate opening at the top of the wall. There is a hidden room through the tiny gate where musicians would sit and play during parties for hours on end… rough gig.

Lastly we entered the castle’s chapel. This really was a lovely chapel, except my pictures turned out awful because it was really dark and we were in stealth mode so using the flash was not an option. Thus, all you guys get is a photo of their stained glass window behind the mini alter… Es tut mir leid.

After the tour we spent a long time just taking in the view. The leaves were starting to turn and the sun was hitting the valley just so… it truly was perfect.

Stunning, right?

Also, I had to post this picture. This “C’mon Emily” pose is nearly identical to the picture from Tübingen when I was taking too many pictures…

Unfortunately, there was nobody around to take our picture together so this is the best we could do…

Until next time! Cheers!

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!