Great Greek Getaway

This past week we were finally able to complete one of the trips that we had to cancel due to Covid.  After wanting to go for so long, we finally spent a wonderful week in Greece.

Day 1

Our trip began very early in the morning (actually the middle of the night) with a flight to Athens.  After arriving, we headed straight into the city to see the Acropolis.  Upon entering the area, we were first met with the ancient theater-Epidaurus Theater.  We climbed further up through the old gate, Beule Gate, to the Parthenon.  Next to the Parthenon, stood the Athena temple.  After wandering at the top for a while, we ventured down the slopes to the Socrates Prison.  There is no actual proof that Socrates was actually imprisoned there; it is likely legend.

After walking for a bit, we experienced our first real highlight of the trip-lunch!  We had a local beer, Fix, Greek Salad, Saganaki (fried cheese), Feta me Meli (feta in Phyllo with honey), Dolma (stuffed grape leaves), tomato fritters and Souvlaki (chicken skewer).  It was all so good.

After refueling, we walked to Ancient Agora where we saw the Temple of Hephaestus as well as an ancient church and a reconstructed forum filled with statues.

We walked back through the city to the Acropolis Museum.  They had a really nice collection of things that were recovered from the Acropolis slopes such as statues, wall pieces, pottery, coins, etc.  They also had an archeological site that revealed a collection of ancient homes.

We rounded out our day in the city with a stop at Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus.

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Then it was off to a bakery and dinner where we tried another local beer, Alpha, a fried cheese from Crete, kolokithokeftedes (zucchini balls), more tomato fritters, fava (smashed split peas), fried cheese cubes and black eyed peas.

Day 2

We explored more ancients today with a drive to Delphi.  Our drive took us through the rocky, hilly landscape past Thebes.  Thebes is the city that the character from Greek mythology, Oedipus, hailed from.  We stopped for an amazing view next to Mt. Parnassus overlooking tons of olive trees before heading on to Delphi where there were also many Cyprus trees.

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At Delphi, we saw the Temple of Athena, the location (really just a rock) where the oracle gave prophecies, Apollo’s Temple, many treasury ruins, a theater and a stadium.

We walked through the Delphi Museum which had many interesting pieces-mostly statues and wall pieces but also some tiny carved figures and gold adornments.

Then it was on to lunch in Delphi at a restaurant overlooking the sea where we had fried sheep and goat cheese, leek pie, fennel pie, olives, grass pea balls with onion chutney, moussaka and wine.  It was all so good and then they gave us some baklava style dessert to finish the meal.

After lunch, we went to Arachova where we walked around some small streets, stopped for a Greek coffee, Gelaktomboureko (custard in a puff pastry) and Kataifi (a honey and nut baklava made with “spaghetti”).

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To work that off, we walked up a ton of steps to a cathedral which was so ornate on the inside with ceiling and wall paintings, massive chandeliers, mosaics, designed floors, metal sculptures and strange small stained glass.

Back in Athens, we enjoyed a small dinner on a rooftop overlooking the Acropolis. We tried Dakos (a tomato, feta and dried bread salad), Halloumi with grilled vegetables and Spanakopita (spinach and feta in Phyllo).  Once we made it back to our apartment, we had some baklava and a nut cake for dessert.

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Day 3

On our final day in Athens, we took a long drive to Ancient Olympia.  Along the way, we stopped at the Corinth Canal to see the man made channel between the seas.

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Then we drove through the mountains to Olympia.  Apparently, it was a significant day in Ancient Olympia as the Olympic Torch was being lit and sent on it’s way to 50 cities throughout Greece before heading to the location of the winter Olympics.  As we arrived at the area, the torch was passing by (sadly, it is not carried by a runner but driven in a car) which was pretty neat.  Once inside the “city,” we grabbed a quick lunch of Gyros and walked to the Ancient Olympia Museum.  The museum contained some very old artifacts (700 B.C.)-statues, vases, edifices, sculptures, helmets, etc.

Next, we entered the archeological site where we saw the ruins of many temples, the gymnasium where the athletes trained, monuments, treasuries and where the Olympic torch used to be lit.  We also walked (my youngest ran) the length of the original Olympic stadium-pretty cool!

At the Museum of the Olympic Games, there was some interesting memorabilia and information.  The old discus, descriptions of when various events were included in the games nd information about women in the games were unique.

Our final stop in Olympia was the Archimedes Museum where they had replicas and information about ancient inventions such as the robot server, a water activated alarm clock, an automated theater and automated temple doors (sadly, no pictures allowed).  On the way back to Athens, we stopped at Ancient Corinth where Paul addressed his letters in Corinthians.

Back in the city, we had dinner of fish roe dip, cheese croquettes, cheese pies, grilled Halloumi, spicy baked feta and tomato croquettes along with a flaming cider drink.

Day 4

We flew to Santorini early in the morning and drove to our rented cave house (traditional style home built into the cliffs).

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In the afternoon, we walked into Fira (Thera) and strolled along the Caldera (the section of coastline overlooking the volcano in the middle of the sea).  Eventually, we made it to the highest point on the island, observing the water, white buildings and domed churches along the way.

We made our way back down to Firastefani for a lunch overlooking the sea.  We had some amazing fava beans, tomato fritters, cheese pie, mushrooms in lemon butter, Santorini salad, Slouvaki and Dakos. We finished the meal with a dessert of Macedonia nut ice cream and a “bread pudding” consisting of the spaghetti style baklava with a special clotted cream.  The restaurant gave us a free dessert wine as well.

After spending some time back at the cave house where the kids soaked in the pool, we walked up to a view of the Caldera for sunset and a dinner of fava beans, tomato fritters, Saganaski and white aubergine (eggplant) rolls stuffed with vegetables.  At the end of the meal, they gave us Ouzo-an anise flavored liqueur.  On the way to the cave house, we stopped in a bakery and bought some baklava type dessert with chocolate and nuts inside and some small orange, chocolate and coconut cakes. It was all very good.

Day 5

After a breakfast of assorted pastries and Koulouri (sesame seed covered bread ring), my daughter and husband went on three scuba dives, so my son and I made our way to a black sand beach where we saw wind surfers and some interesting formations of sand.  Our divers enjoyed their day and saw many fish and lava rock grottos.

Once we were all back together, we went to dinner where we had Pastitsio (a moussaka with noodles in it), mushroom pies, tomato fritters, fava beans and Halloumi with grilled vegetables.  We also tried the local Yellow Donkey beer.

Day 6

Today, we filled up on vegetable pie and Nutella and cream filled donuts before going to Perissa beach (black sand).  We laid out, the kids got in the water, and we collected pumice rocks-generally we just enjoyed the sun, blue skies and clear water.  Across the street, we enjoyed a lunch of fava balls, cheese balls and cashew garlic dip with pita bread as well as some mushroom gyros and falafel wraps.  All of that went well with some Alpha beer and a mojito After that tasty break, we sat on the beach for a while longer.

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In the evening, we drove to Pyrgos where we climbed through the village streets to the top of the city and sat outside a church to watch the sun set while snacking on some cheese, olives, veggies and Tzatziki and eggplant dips.  We sat back, sipped on some Red Donkey beer and watched the sunset.

After dark, we went to Megalachori where we walked the main street which was pretty with the lights.

Day 7

After some cheese, vegetable and chocolate pastries, we drove to Oia.  Though it was incredibly pretty, it was very crowded so we headed to a less busy area to enjoy the views over the water.  We had a lovely lunch overlooking the sea.  We decided on Volkan beer, white eggplant, spinach pies, tomato risotto, baklava and Gelaktomboureko.

In the evening, we walked to a 100 year old restaurant, Aktaion.  We had a really amazing meal consisting of Retsina wine (a wine infused with pine resin), Loukoumades (fried cheese ball donuts), vegetable fritters, Dolma (stuffed grape leaves), fava bean and a traditional tomato pasta and mushroom and truffle oil pasta.  We finished it all off with a Greek yogurt and cream cheese dessert and a small shot of a digestif.

Day 8

On our final full day, we drove to Emporio and walked around a bit.  It was a very interesting little village with many small nooks and passageways and an abundance of cave homes built into the cliffs.

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Then we spent some time at another black sand beach where the water was so nice that we all got in it a bit.

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We stopped for a lunch at the dock where we had a dip platter (spicy feta, eggplant, fish roe and Tzatziki), Saganaski and tomato fritters.

We walked to the Red Beach and the archeological site at Akoriti.  The site was interesting as it was a preserved city (thanks to lava flow) from 2000 B.C.  Something that old is really hard to process.

We went to one final black beach before making our way to the lighthouse to watch the sunset.

We returned to the restaurant where we had lunch on our first day on the island and had many of the same dishes as well as grilled Halloumi, feta balls and mushroom risotto.  The restaurant gave us a free aperitif called Raki and we finished the day off with a Mythos beer.

And just when we thought our time on the island was done and all that was left was for us to travel home, we saw our first sunrise on the island while waiting on our plane.  It was truly amazing how the sun would appear and disappear at the horizon as if it was really the edge of the world.

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We really had an awe inspiring (all the remains of the ancient civilizations) and relaxing (warm weather and nice beaches) week in Greece.  And hopefully all of our walking helped to burn some calories, or we may really be in trouble thanks to all the delicious food.  We are so thankful that we finally got to make this trip, and we will definitely carry the memories of the sun soaked vacation with us as we head into another Dutch winter.

Holiday in Hannover

This past weekend we went to visit some family friends in Hannover, Germany. They just returned to Hannover two months ago after a five year hiatus, and they were eager to show us this place that they will now call home again.

We took a tour of the city by bike which began in a huge forest area right near their house.  Before entering the forest though, we rode by their church.

We biked through the forest for a while finally emerging in a field area before entering city streets.  We biked along the street (carefully because there was a triathlon going on) for a bit before biking along the large man-made Maschsee Lake.  Our friends told us that this lake (which I regrettably have no pictures of myself) was dug by hand during the Third Reich to keep people busy and not thinking too much.  It is a really large lake so one can only imagine how intense the construction must have been.  It is a beautiful spot for boats and rowing and there is a swim beach and club to one end.  We stopped at a beer garden along the lake and had a drink which was very nice.

We then biked to the new city hall which is still very old by American standards.

We saw an old gate and wall of the city and then on to the old city hall, a church in the area and a walk around some of the streets in the old part of the city.

We had lunch near the old part of the city.  I didn’t take any pictures (not like me, I know) but it was really good.  One dish was a traditional German style potato pasta with mushrooms and cream and the other was mushrooms on rosti (hashbrown style potato).  Of course, we had a little more German beer as well.

After lunch, we biked through the more alternative or “punk,” as our friends called it, neighborhood which had a more artistic feel.

Then it was on to the formal gardens, Herrenhausen.  The gardens were built in Hannover because the House of Hannover has a tie to the British Monarchy.  The grounds were very large with many different garden alcoves and huge fountains.  There was also a grotto with a modern art interior.  There were so many women at the garden having pictures done in their wedding gowns that I lost track of the number we saw.

After the gardens, we biked through more park space in front of the university and then through the more modern parts of the city on our way back to their section of the city.  Near their home is a pedestrian area where no cars or bikes are allowed.  It is lined with shops and restaurants.  Children can lay out blankets along the path with used items for sale any day of the week all year long as a way to make a little money.  They even had a carousel and we were told that they have a really nice Christmas market there in December (might be worth a return visit!).

On Sunday, they took us to Marienburg Castle which was about 30 minutes drive from their house.  The castle was once a gift to a princess who was not happy with it as it did not have a heating system.  The castle was fairly large and very pretty.  We toured the inside and then walked around some crafter stalls and a children’s area as there was a summer festival going on.

Sadly, that was all we had time for on this weekend visit, but we would definitely consider going back as there seems to be a lot to do and see there (and of course we would love to spend more time with our friends).

Waterloo

This past week, after a year without travel outside the country, we finally drove across the border without restriction.  For this momentous occasion, we decided to head to Waterloo in Belgium, a mere two hours from our house.

Waterloo (and yes we were humming the song the entire time) is the site of the famous battle in which Napoleon attempted to rebuild his empire by reforming his Imperial Garde and taking Belgian and Dutch land, but instead met with a crushing defeat from a combined force of British, Dutch, Belgian and German soldiers led by Duke Wellington.  The battle was a particularly brutal one.  By the end of the day of fighting, 40,000 men and 10,000 horses lay dead or seriously injured on the field.

Using a historical walking route provided by the Boy Scouts of America in this region of Europe, our first stop was to see Le Caillou, the farmhouse that Napoleon used as his headquarters the night before the battle.

 

Next, we stopped at an observation point that Napoleon used when he returned to the battlefield in the late afternoon (apparently he spent the day at an inn further down the road due to an attack of colitis that was incredibly painful).  The Imperial Garde could see the battlefield from this location, but they never had a view of the full field until the battle was almost over, something which proved devastating to their efforts. 

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Our walk took us past the L’Aigle Blesse statue erected to symbolize the fall of the Imperial Garde.  This particular spot was chosen because it was there that the Garde had their last defenses. 

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From there, we began walking through the fields where the battle was fought toward Hougoumont Farm.  Here, the Garde spent many hours attempting to take the farm from the British, but even after heavy casualties and burning the chateau and chapel of the farm down, they were unable to succeed.

Next, we made our way through more of the fields to the path leading to the ridge that proved to be a key to the battle.  This ridge allowed the British forces to remain unseen by the Imperial Garde.  The Garde, believing that the British had been scattered and crippled, charged the area, discovering that the British were merely below the ridge after they were too close to allow for success. 

Today, what remained of the ridge is part of the earth used to build the Butte du Lion (lion monument) which commemorates the battle. 

Finally, we walked past La Haie Sainte, another farmhouse used by Duke Wellington.  This one was so close to the Duke’s battle line that is would have been devastating if the Garde took control, so a group of German soldiers were assigned to protect it.  Again, the Garde spent great effort attempting to take the farmhouse but the Germans, though very few survived, managed to defend it. 

The final point that we saw was La Belle Alliance, which in addition to being the inn where Napoleon spent much of the battle due to his colitis, is also where Duke Wellington and the Prince of Prussia (who provided late aide to the British troops on the battlefield) met to declare their victory after the battle was over. 

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All in all, it was a nice day for a long walk and an interesting lesson in history.  And to make the trip really worthwhile, there was also a stop in Brussels for some Belgian waffles!

Hopefully this was the first of travel posts to come in the not too distant future.  Until then!

Trekking Through the Alps

While our travels in 2020 have not turned out as planned, we decided to go ahead and take a vacation this summer.  While we contemplated several possible scenarios based on the current pandemic situation, we finally settled on a trip that we had planned to take back in June with some modifications.  Thus, we rented an RV and hit the road for two weeks to trek around Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany.

Day 1

Our first day was mainly spent driving through Belgium, Luxembourg and France on our way to Switzerland.  IMG-20200725-WA0000Once in Switzerland, we made our way to Bern.  We saw some nice scenery as we made our way in including some huge and dense fields of sunflowers.  I could not get any decent pictures of those but snapped a few of some less dense fields later.

We had a slight mishap (think small, steep mountain road and an RV with nowhere to turn around and no way to continue up), but some nice folks helped us through it.  However, we got into Bern pretty late due to that, so we only had time to get some dinner.  There was a pizzeria near our campsite so we opted for that but went for a Swiss feel by trying Rivella, a popular soda drink there, and some Swiss beer.

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Day 2

Our day began in the capital city of Bern.  We took the morning to walk along the Aare River (it’s a very fast-moving river and people were floating/swimming down it) into the city.

The city was a sort of old-style that was very attractive even among modern amenities.  We saw the parliament building, cathedral and shop-lined streets with fountains running down the center of the street.

One interesting feature in Bern that I have not seen anywhere else was what appeared to be cellar doors lining the street in front of shops.  Most of the doors were closed, but they are actually entrances to shops, restaurants and clubs that are underneath the street-level shops.

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After walking around for a bit, we climbed above the city to the Rose Garden.  There were some nice views of the city from there.

We headed back down to watch the clock tower which was supposed to have moving figures on the hour.  It did, though they were not too exciting.  We did enjoy some nice pastries while waiting, though, which helped assuage the disappointment.

After a return walk along the river to our campground, we loaded up and drove on to Montreux which is situated on Lake Geneva.

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We drove through the Laveux Vineyard area where we had a lot of great views.

We drove around part of Montreux on our way to Chillon Chateau, a castle situated on the water.

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We walked around the outside of the castle and along a lakeside path to a terrace restaurant for a drink (local wine and beer).

Then, we walked back to the castle area where we had a sausage and cheese plate for dinner along with a little Swiss chocolate.  We decided to leave the area and head on toward Zermatt, our next stop.  There were lots of mountain views and step farming style vineyards on the way as well as a castle on a hill.

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Day 3

Our day began with a drive into the resort-style village of Zermatt.  The village is comprised of tons of chalet-style homes, hotels, restaurants and shops as well as a church with a cemetery.

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It is also home to the famed Matterhorn.

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We stopped for a Swiss specialty on the way to a trail leading toward the Matterhorn, zopf-a soft braided bread.

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It was very good and gave us a little boost for our climb up the trail.  The views on the trail were very nice with lots of wildflowers and, of course, the mountains.

After walking up for a while, we headed down to Gorner Gorge to get a view of the glacial water flow.

We walked back into Zermatt for lunch.  We tried Rosti for the first, but definitely not last, time (it is on every menu in a multitude of variations).  It is basically a plate of hash browns and this particular version had cheese and tomatoes.  We also had some schnitzel and sausage and Zurcher Geschnetzeltes-veal with a mushroom and cream sauce along with some local beers.

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We walked around the village a little and went into the church and cemetery before stopping to buy some nusstorte (nut tort), Zermatt Birnenbrot (basically a pastry stuffed with a dried pear and other fruits spread) and some Swiss chocolate.  The nusstorte was okay, the Birnenbrot was not appreciated at all and the chocolate was delicious!

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After leaving Zermatt, we drove through many mountain roads with waterfalls and little villages at the base of the Alps each filled with little chalets and churches.  We also saw deer, mountain goats and sheep along the way.

At the top of a huge mountain climb, we found a glacial lake and stopped for a few pictures before heading down the other side of the mountain to the Interlaken/Jungfrau area and more specifically, Wilderswil.

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After settling into a campground there, which would be our home for the next 4 days, we walked to a nearby restaurant for a dinner of (you guessed it) Rosti, this time with a fried egg, Schnitzel, Cordon Bleu made of local veal stuffed with mountain cheese (did you know cordon bleu originated in Switzerland) and lamb Emmenschtel (a sort of lamb stew in a cream curry sauce).  We also added some local beer to the meal for a nice end to the day.

Day 4

Today, we decided to check out the towns around the Interlaken area-specifically Unterseen, Thun, Oberhofen and Wilderswil.

We started in Unterseen.  It was a really cute town with lots of chalets and the river running through the city in two places, but there was nothing too exciting to actually do or see there.  We tried a few pastries and walked around for a bit before heading on to Thun.

We intended to walk around Thun, but, after driving for a bit without being able to find anywhere to park the RV, we gave up, drove around the town, saw a castle and a cute bridge over the river studded with flowers and then headed to Oberhofen.

Oberhofen was not originally on our list to see, but it was actually a nice little stop.  It had a really cool looking castle on the lake and we found a nice place to stop for lunch.

Today we had (I’ll give you one guess) Rosti with bacon and onion, Schnitzel, Cordon Bleu (are you sensing a pattern here?) and two new dishes-a sausage and cheese salad and Alplermagronen-essentially macaroni, cubed potatoes and bacon in a white cream sauce served with a small pot of applesauce for putting over the pasta (don’t worry, you’ll see this one again).  Of course, we also had to try some local beer.

We drove back on some fun roads along the lake, before having a little downtime in the afternoon.

In the evening we walked around Wilderswil, the town where our campsite was located.  There were a lot of chalets and flower gardens on the way to the train station.  Behind the train station, there was an old bridge over the river which led to a church and cemetery.

The cemetery was really nicely maintained so we walked around it for a bit before heading back to our RV to have our dinner which consisted of cheese from the cow belonging to the owner of the campground and some lamb sausage from a farm in the town.  We also got some bread baked by the campground owner.  We ended the meal with a couple of liqueur-filled Swiss chocolates (one filled with a pear liqueur and the other with Kirsch)-pretty good!!

Day 5

Today we went to Beatus Cave.  We had to climb up the mountain to the mouth of the cave.

Once inside, you could hear the rushing water that flows through the cave.

The best thing in the cave was a really cool mirror pool which gave the impression that the ceiling was repeated one level below.  It was slightly disorienting.

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After the caves, we ate at a small restaurant near our campground.  We had (say it with me) Rosti and Alplermagronen, some of the best we had, and cheese fondue with forest mushrooms.  The fondue was served with bread, gherkins, pearl onions and little potatoes that came out in a small burlap sack.  We also tried a Riesling from a town 20 minutes away on the lake.  We ended the meal with a meringue dessert.  It was all very good.

After our lunch, we drove to Trummelbach Falls.  It was a really interesting waterfall because it was running in and out of the rocks/cave.  We took an elevator up inside the rock and then walked all through the rock and carved out spaces to view different parts of the falls as it made its way down to the river below.  It was a cool example of erosion.

Day 6

Today, was the day I had been most looking forward to- hiking in the Alps with all of the wildflowers and mountain views.  But instead, it decided to rain.  The flowers and views were not at all what we were hoping for, but we decided to make the best of it and tell ourselves that we were getting to view the trails in a different light with hopes that the day after would be sunny.  So, while we had expected beautiful bright flowers and skies, we got a more eerie, misty looking experience.

We began by walking toward a waterfall on a small trail near the cable car station.

Then we took the cable car up to Mürren.  Even with the cloud cover, we had some nice views going up.

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At Mürren, we started the Bluemental trail where we were treated to pretty scenery comprised of wildflowers, waterfalls, streams and cows with melodious bells.

We hiked up to the flower garden where they had information about the flowers of the region and we saw some Edelweiss.

We had lunch at a terrace near the garden.  We had Raclette, a special Swiss cheese that is melted and eaten on top of potatoes, pearl onions and gherkins, as well as some mountain cheese and sausage and regional beers.  We would have never known that there were amazing views of the mountains at this terrace except for a very brief clearing that revealed part of the mountains.

After lunch, we walked the mountain view trail.  We had no mountain views, but we were treated to a lot of wildflowers and cows.  The cows all had different shaped and sized bells which really made the jangling sound very melodic.  As my husband said, “we were treated to an orchestra of cows.”

We came out of the trail through a forest and onto a hill of tons of sleeping cows.  It was a little eerie with the foggy mist and all the cows just laying around staring at us!

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Finally, we walked through Mürren past some pretty flower gardens before heading back down the mountain in the cable car.

We went to the same restaurant from a few days before where everyone got the same thing they previously ate (yes-Rosti, Schnitzel and Cordon Bleu) except for me-I tried the vegetable cream soup which was very nice.

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Day 7

After 3 days of rain and overcast conditions, today was our last chance to see the scenery of the Alps, so we were hoping for a nice day.  It did not disappoint!  Though it was not completely clear, we had sun and views, so we were very happy.  We took a historic train (it has been running for over 100 years) up the mountain to Schynige Platte.  There, we hiked a trail around the rim of the mountain where we had views of the lake below, snowy peaks and a glacier and lots of wildflowers.  We even saw a badger from a distance!  And, of course, there was the music of cows!

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After the trail, we walked around the Alpine Botanical Garden which had a really nice display including more Edelweiss.

We listened to the Alpenhorn players and sat on the terrace to eat Aplermagronen and Shnitzel with regional beer.  It was freezing, so we ate fast and then walked around the botanical garden some more to warm back up.

Before heading back down the mountain, we sat on another terrace and had some apricot kuchen and wildberry cake.  The apricot was only politely received, but the wildberry cake was delicious.

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After returning to the valley, we walked to Interlaken for dinner.  We had Rosti (again!) with bacon and egg, Zurcher Geshnetzeltes (the veal in mushroom sauce) and some regional bratwurst with Rosti.  It was not our best meal.

Day 8

Today, we moved on to Lucerne for a few hours before entering Liechtenstein.  Before leaving our campground though, we had a breakfast of bread baked by the campground owner and cheese from her cow as we did every day that we were there.

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In Lucerne, we began by walking to the Lion Monument which is situated in a park area.  It commemorates the Swiss guard killed in the French Revolution.

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Then we made our way to Hofkirch and the Jesuit Church.  They were fairly plain on the inside but were large.

We walked along Lake Lucerne which was filled with boats and the fast-moving Reuss River and saw a couple of wooden footbridges including Chapel Bridge.  The bridges had triangular paintings running along the rafters.

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We wandered around several of the streets and strolled the Weinmarkt area.  The buildings were really neat, and many had elaborate drawings or paintings on them.  There were also a number of fountains throughout the city.

Finally, we walked up to the Musegg Wall, the old fortification wall, for a quick look before heading for lunch.

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While we, of course, had Rosti (with tomato, bacon, egg and cheese) and Schnitzel, we also tried a Lucerne specialty, Chogel Lipaschteli, which was a puff pastry stuffed with veal.  We tried a wine from Lucerne as well.

Then, it was on to Liechtenstein where our first stop was Balzers and Burg Gutenburg, an old castle.  We could see the castle on the hill as we drove in.  After parking, we first stopped at a really pretty church with a cemetery.  It was a quaint, stone church and it was probably one of the prettiest small churches we have seen.  To the side of the church, there was a vineyard at the base of the castle that we walked around.

We moved on to the campground where we had dinner of bratwurst with Rosti (nope, food in Liechtenstein is not too different from Swiss food), veal with mushroom sauce and Flammkuchen (the thin-crust pizzas) as well as some local beer and wine.  They also gave us a gazpacho type starter to try.

Day 9

Today, we went to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.  We first walked to the outskirts of the city where there is a wooden bridge spanning the Rhine River which connects Liechtenstein and Switzerland.  We, of course, walked from one country to the other and back again.

Then, with Vaduz Castle where the royal family lives looming over us on the hill, we walked into the center of Vaduz where we saw St. Florin Cathedral.  It was pretty inside and out but mostly was simple.

We walked through the downtown area past several government buildings before finding a spot for lunch.

We had a starter of Vaduzer soup (a white wine cream soup) and then tried a stroganoff pasta, a beef fillet with Ribel (a sort of polenta) and a vegetable ratatouille with Ribel as well as a local and a Swiss beer and some local red and white wine.

After lunch, we walked up the hill to the Red House, a historic landmark, and the vineyards next to it.

We had a light dinner, but as it was our anniversary, we finished the night with a Rosé Spumante from Liechtenstein and some Swiss chocolate that we found in Vaduz.

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Day 10

Today, we hiked the Allspitz/Furstensteig trail.  We started early with an ascent over the valley.  It started to rain on us, but as a result, some animals came out of hiding and we saw marmots, a bunny and some chamois (goat antelopes).  We hiked up a huge mountainside to a foresty area where we reached a summit.

After this, we headed through a rocky area to the Furstensteig (Prince’s Way) trailhead.  The trail itself was very narrow and rocky and kind of fun but for those with a fear of heights, it was less enjoyable.  The trail provided some really nice views of the valley and mountains surrounding the area as well as Switzerland.  Then, it was back down through the forest to the car.

After resting a while, we went to get some dinner.  We had a melon and white wine starter and seafood and vegetable risottos as well as pork medallions.  We decided to try a white wine from the Prince’s vineyards in Vaduz.

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Day 11

We ended our time in Liechtenstein this morning with a hike on the Eschnerberg Trail in Schellenberg.  The trail was not overly exciting, but we did walk to the ruins of a castle from the 1300s and through forested and meadow areas with some nice views.

After the trail, we walked to the ruins of another castle from the 1300s that was a little more intact than the first.

Then, we drove into Germany to Rothenburg.  It is an adorable walled-in city with numerous clock towers, churches, old-style homes with colorful window boxes and fountains which is said to be Walt Disney’s inspiration for the village in Pinnochio.  It does feel like a fairy tale town.  However, while it is cute, it is quite touristy.  It would be amazing at Christmas, though, my friend that lives in Germany tells me that they may cancel all Christmas markets this year.

We had dinner on a terrace where we tried a local cheese platter, some Weizen beers, 3 local sausages with potatoes and sauerkraut and Schnitzel.  It was a nice meal.

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After dinner, we wandered the streets and did some window shopping.

We also stopped in a bakery to get some Scheebollen, kind of like a ball made of fried wontons which is then coated in either sugar or melted chocolate.  It is a Rothenburg specialty.  We tried powdered sugar, chocolate with Nutella filling, vanilla/amaretto with an almond paste filling and a plain chocolate coating.  We didn’t love them, but, spoiler alert, the next day we got a powdered sugar one from a different bakery, and it was very good.

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Day 12

We went back into Rothenburg briefly in the early morning.  It was much quieter then.

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Then we moved on to Otterberg to visit a friend.  They showed us around the town, and we hiked a ravine which was very pretty with a stream, lots of big rocks and trees (including many fallen ones which were perfect for climbing).

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Day 13

On our final day, we went to Cochem in Germany.  There was a lot of nice architecture in the city, but it was much dirtier and dingier looking than Rothenburg, though it was also, obviously, a tourist destination.  There was a cool main square with a fountain and a castle up on the hill that we walked to.  We tried a plum and streusel pastry which was okay, and then we bought some Riesling to take home as Cochem is in wine country.

Finally, we were on the road home.

Now, if you are thinking “this was a long post,” you would be right.  It was a long vacation!  But, I hope reading all of this didn’t wear you out.  Of course, in these uncertain times, this will likely be the last travel post for some time.  So, I hope you enjoyed coming along for the journey, and we’ll see you on the other side when we can explore some more!

First Pandemic Getaway

While I wish that I was posting about the adventure that I was supposed to be having in Switzerland at this moment, the pandemic has made that an impossible dream.  But, we decided that there were still a few things that were 1). allowed by various countries as far as travel and quarantine restrictions go and 2). safe enough for us to get a small getaway in.  With that in mind, we headed to Luxembourg City this past Friday and then to a campground in Malmedy, Belgium for a little hiking for the rest of the weekend, and thus, after months without, I am finally able to post something about our travels in Europe again!

During our couple of hours in Luxembourg, we walked around the upper level or old town of the city and the lower level referred to as the Grund.  Many people in Luxembourg were wearing masks, unlike in The Netherlands, and masks were required to go into the cathedral there.  The cathedral was the only building we were planning to go in, but as we did not have any masks with us, we were unable to.  Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable walk around the city.

The old town and The Grund are very compact areas so we could easily and quickly see many things.  We saw the cathedral, the Place d’arms, Place Guillame II, and the Passarelle Viaduc.

We walked to Place de Constitution and the Palais Grand-Ducal where we watched the guards marching out front before making our way to the Casemates du Bock.

 

There are tunnels under the casemates that were used in WWII but the casemates themselves were closed so they were not accessible.  We did, however, enjoy some great views from the casemates and a nice walk down the Chemin du Corniche on our way to The Grund.

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