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A breath of fresh air in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

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View from mountain, Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Just south of the picturesque small resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze, at almost 3,000 meters high.

It offers not only word-class winter sport possibilities, but also breathtaking views of the surrounding area from many points throughout the climb up to be enjoyed during any season.

World Famous Winter Resort

Many know Garmisch-Partenkirchen as a winter resort destination for ski and snowboarders. The mountain features nearly 120 km of downhill runs for all difficulty levels as well as 110 km of cross country trails, a terrain park and Germany’s first superpipe. It was even the home of the 1936 Winter Olympic Games. Today, one of the most famous activities is the New Year’s Ski Jump, where crowds gather on January 1st of each year to watch athletes fearlessly execute sky high jumps and show off their talents. It can be difficult to get tickets to this event, so it is recommended to book as early as possible.

Because Garmisch-Partenkirchen is such as popular winter sport destination there is great infrastructure to ensure that you can participate in any kind of activity possible. You can ski, sled, snowshoe-hike and even stay overnight in an igloo village!

Although I wouldn’t consider myself a particular good snowboarder, there were tons difficulty levels available and the powder was really soft (I found from falling many, many times). There are also tons of lodges scattered throughout the mountain, so you can easily take a break to warm up with a hot mug of Glühwein!

Map of Zugspitze, Garmisch-Classic and Mountain Wank routes offered by Zugspitze.de.
Map of Zugspitze, Garmisch-Classic and Mountain Wank routes offered by Zugspitze.de.

And it’s not just great in winter, either!

Although we visited in the winter, a trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen is also a great summer activity too! You can enjoy a ride on the cable car along three different routes: Zugspitze, Garmisch-Classic and Wank (these are also offered in the winter in accordance with winter options too).

For the Zugspitze route, you can do a glacier hike and even sled on natural snow in the summer time! On the Garmisch-Classic route, activities include hiking, climbing and paragliding while the Wank route includes the options for hiking and paragliding.

View from mountain, Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
View from mountain, Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

A Charming Village

What I also loved about Garmisch-Partenkirchen was the small city itself. Historically Garmisch and Partenkirchen were two separate districts with distinctly separate identities. It wasn’t until 1936 when the towns were forced to combine by Adolf Hitler in anticipation to the Winter Olympic Games. Today, visitors can notice a more modern feel in the section of Garmisch, while the fresco-filled cobblestone streets of Partenkirchen maintain a more historical point of view.

We also managed to find a great bed and breakfast, owned by a welcoming elderly couple. The room was less than 40 euros per night and we had our own bathroom. In the morning, the woman who ran the guesthouse made us a delicious full German breakfast- the perfect start to an adventure filled day!

[Zugspitze.de], [Wikipedia]

Disney Inspiration: Neuschwanstein Castle

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Did you know that the Neuschwanstein Castle was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle? Nestled in the hills of Bavaria, this is one spot you don’t want to miss!

Having visited Cinderella’s Castle when I was very young, I couldn’t imagine anything comparable to the enchantment and fantasy that it possessed. That was until I visited Neuschwanstein last winter and had a first-hand experience with the famous muse.

Story of Neuschwanstein Castle

The isolated location of the castle, between the Alpine foothills in the south and a hilly landscape in the north, was intended not as a defense strategy. Rather it was built to provide a private, quiet place for the reclusive Ludwig II of Bavaria. He had spent his childhood in the family summer residence in the area. When Ludwig became king in 1864, he commissioned the palace named “New Hohenschwangau Castle”. It was to be built over the ruins of two previous family residences, the two Hohenschwangau Castles. It was renamed to Neuschwanstein after his death.

Upon visiting the castle today, you can see that the Hohenschwangau Castle (built over another castle’s ruins) is also still standing within the vicinity of Neuschwanstein. (A bit confusing, I know!).

View from the hike up to Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau Castle is in the distance.
View from the hike up to Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau Castle is in the distance.

How To Get There

Getting to the castle can be done by private car or public transport including the train or a bus. To determine the best route for you, check here. Once you have arrived at the town of the castle, there is a still some “obstacles” that remain before you can go inside. For example, it’s located at an altitude of approximately 940 meters.

During our trip, we went up by foot, which took about 30-40 minutes. It was during wintertime and there was a lot of ice and snow. This made the scenery really beautiful, but I wouldn’t recommend going by foot in these conditions as we almost slipped a few times on the ice and it was a long way down! Other options are to arrive by shuttle or even by horse-drawn carriage.

The entrance ticket to the castle must be bought in the city itself as the ticket office. There were many tourists here, even in winter, and it was obvious where to purchase. We didn’t end up going inside (as we are poor students) but I would definitely choose to if given the choice again! I would absolutely recommend going in the summer months, when the foliage is in full bloom as the area around the castle itself is really beautiful and refreshing. Also not to be missed is the Marienbrücke, or bridge that overlooks the castle.

neuschwanstein
View from the Marienbrücke

By going on foot, you also could take some breaks along the way. As well, there was plenty of time to stop and admire the breathtaking views that stretched as far as the eye could see, equipped with lakes and little Bavarian villages. Pack a snack and plenty of water though. It’s a long way up and once you reach the castle there are food and drinks options. But, as expected, they were pretty expensive.

[Wikipedia]

Twenty-Four Hours in Hamburg

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Speicherstadt. Taken by Marcus Pink via Flickr.

Only a few hours drive from Berlin, there’s no reason not to make a quick stop in Hamburg on your way! Here is my list of what to do if you’ve only got 24 hours to spend there:

Wake up and head to the harbor…

The quarter known as Landungsbrücken is a great spot to sit and watch the city wake up. Stop at one of the many small cafés overlooking the Elbe River for Brötchen (small rolls) with a slice of cheese or meat (a typical German breakfast) and a hot cup of coffee.

Landungsbrücken harbor
Landungsbrücken harbor
Shipping piers at Landungsbrücken
Shipping piers at Landungsbrücken

If you’re there on a Sunday morning, be sure to check out the famous Hamburg Fishmarkt, located just a short walk from the Landungbrücken Ubahn station. As it is still a relatively active port, there is always some sort of commotion going on.

Next up: HafenCity

As the caffeine from your coffee starts to kick in, you may want to stretch your legs a bit. Head southwest along the line of the harbor towards to HafenCity. Thirty years ago, this area was desolate, abandoned after the once vital port was deemed to small for the new, larger container ships. In recent years, however, it has been revitalized.

With sustainability in mind, the neighborhood has been designed to be a walkable, livable, destination for residents, just a little over a kilometer from the city center. New architectural concepts and innovative urban designs are the things to see here. Points of interest include the Marco Polo House (some of Hamburg’s most expensive real estate), the Unilever building, the Chilehaus and of course, the still-in-construction Elbphilharmonie.

Elbphilharmonie with the Marco Polo Tower and Unilever building in the background. Taken by specialpaul via Flickr.
Elbphilharmonie with the Marco Polo Tower and Unilever building in the background. Taken by specialpaul via Flickr.

Then, Head North to the City Center

Walk north up Osakaallee following signs to the Rathaus (Town Hall) and city center. At the corner of Osakaallee and Brooktorkai you’ll find a small little café called Fleetschlösschen. In case you need to warm up this is the perfect little cozy spot! Or, if your hungry for lunch, continue up Bei St. Annen, which turns into Brandstwiete, turn left onto Willy-Brandt-Straße and you’ll find the Gröninger Privatbrauerei, a delicious spot to try some authentic German dishes traditional to northern Germany and Hamburg.

Fleetschlösschen cafe. Taken by Roman Pfeiffer via Flickr.
Fleetschlösschen cafe. Taken by Roman Pfeiffer via Flickr.

As you transition from the HafenCity to the city center, be sure to check out the Speicherstadt, a string of large ware-house like buildings that have survived World War II (where most of the buildings in the Hamburg city center have been destroyed) and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Speicherstadt. Taken by Marcus Pink via Flickr.
Speicherstadt. Taken by Marcus Pink via Flickr.

Once you find yourself at Rathaus Markt, take some photos of the historic Town Hall (you can’t miss it). During the Christmas season there is also a really nice Christmas Market there. Other events are held there throughout the year as well.

Relax By The Alster

Cross the main square in front of the Rathaus and head towards Jungfernsteig, walk along the Alster Lake, relax by the water if the weather permits.

Jungfernstieg
Jungfernstieg
Alster Park-compressed
Park by the Alster.

If the weather is nice, also consider taking a stroll in the Planten un Blomen park, which has a botanical garden with tropical greenhouses, an authentic Japanese garden and a rose garden with over 300 types of roses (in the warm weather).

From There, Head Towards Sternchanze

Ratsherrn Pilsner
Ratsherrn Pilsner. Taken by Bjoern via Flickr.

Sternchanze is Hamburg’s alternative area, which has lots of cool little shops, cafes and bars. It is also the location of my favorite brewery Ratsherrn. In the Altes Mädchen building you can find the Rathaus Brewery and shop. Sample a few of the craft beers!

Hang out there for a while or hop back on the U3 getting off at Landungsbrücken again. Instead of going towards the harbor, head towards to the Portuguese Viertal (Portuguese neighborhood) to my favorite dinner place, Luigi’s. With a background of Latin salsa beats, energetic waiters shouting “escuzi, bella!” and super delicious pizza, this place is not to be missed! At the end of the meal they also bring a bottle of digestive to the table at the end of the meal, to liven things up a little bit more.

Either call it a night or…

Head to One of Hamburg’s Most Famous Districts: Reeperbahn

Full of clubs, bars, strip clubs, cheap take away food places, casinos and some excellent people watching, the Reeperbahn is a truly unique aspect to the city. There’s always a party somewhere on the strip and on Friday and Saturday you’ll find people partying all night.

Große Freiheit street at the Reeperbahn. Taken by Stimmungsfänger via Flickr.
Große Freiheit street at the Reeperbahn. Taken by Stimmungsfänger via Flickr.

 

Hamburg’s Green Heart: Planten un Blomen Park

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Planten un Blomen. Taken by Glyn Lowe via Flickr.

One of Hamburg’s most famous city parks, Planten un Blomen, is the perfect destination for families, romantic getaways and casual friendly meet-ups.

The park itself is located right in the city center, connecting the area of St. Pauli to the Alster over a range of 47 hectares. The name of the park comes from Plattdeutsch (Low German) and literally means “Plants and Flowers”, a big hint at what makes this park so special.

Planten un Blomen Map (from 2004). "Hh-plantenunblomen-map" by User Staro1 on de.wikipedia - Öffentlich aufgestellte Infotafel. Fotograf: selbst. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hh-plantenunblomen-map.png#/media/File:Hh-plantenunblomen-map.png
Planten un Blomen Map (from 2004). “Hh-plantenunblomen-map” by User Staro1 on de.wikipedia – Öffentlich aufgestellte Infotafel. Fotograf: selbst. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Planten un Blomen. Taken by Glyn Lowe via Flickr.
Planten un Blomen. Taken by Glyn Lowe via Flickr.

Beautiful Gardens

Inside the park you will find the largest Japanese garden in Europe. It was designed in 1988 by landscape architect Yoshikuni Araki according to the strict guidelines, making it a true authentic experience. At the center is a lake with a traditional Japanese teahouse, which hosts tea ceremonies from May to September. There are also workshops available on Japanese calligraphy, taiko drums and Japanese perfume ceremonies.

Japanese Garden. Tkaen by opopododo via Flickr.
Japanese Garden. Taken by opopododo via Flickr.
Japanese Garden. Taken by FouPic via Flickr.
Japanese Garden. Taken by FouPic via Flickr.
Japanese Garden.
Japanese Garden. Taken by FouPic via Flickr.
Waterfall at Japanese Garden, Planten un Blomen. Taken by Sarahhoa via Flickr.
Waterfall at Japanese Garden. Taken by Sarahhoa via Flickr.

Another famous garden inside Planten un Blomen is the rose garden, which features over 300 varieties of roses including historic roses, shrub and wild roses, climbing roses and hybrid teas. The lay out follows a “classical style” with various arches and corner for sitting and enjoying the atmosphere. As well, during the summer season in the central pavilion you can learn about the different varieties of roses and their care.

Rose garden. Taken by Urban Explorer Hamburg via Flickr.
Rose garden. Taken by Urban Explorer Hamburg via Flickr.

Don’t forget to visit the botanical garden with a tropical greenhouse with an alpine garden with mountain flowers, mosses and lichens. The complex is divided into five separate areas by plant groups and habitats.

Inside greenhouse at the Botanical Garden. Taken by mike via Flickr.
Inside greenhouse at the Botanical Garden. Taken by mike via Flickr.
Greenhouse inside theB Botanical Garden. Taken by geehke via Flickr.
Greenhouse inside theB Botanical Garden. Taken by geehke via Flickr.

Water Light Show, Theatre, Ice-Skating and much more at Planten un Blomen!

Along with the many gardens, Planten un Blomen is also famous for a water light show with music that takes place every night at 10:00 pm from May to September.

Water Light Show at Planten un Blomen. Taken by Barn Images via Flickr.
Water Light Show at Planten un Blomen. Taken by Barn Images via Flickr.

If you’re visiting with children, there is also a daily program of shows from a puppet theatre to circus, all free of charge.

Recently, I visited one of the most famous winter attractions at Planten un Blomen, the outdoor ice skating rink. In the summer it serves as a roller and inline skating rink but when the cold weather rolls in it turns into one of the largest open-air artificial ice rinks in the world at over 4300 square meters.

Outdoor ice skating rink. Taken by Graham C99 via Flickr.
Outdoor ice skating rink. Taken by Graham C99 via Flickr.

There is an entrance fee of 3,90 for under 15 years and 5,50 for adults (plus 5,00 more to rent ice skates) but the atmosphere inside is really great. Each night is a live DJ playing music and there is drinks and food available for when you need to take a break.

Overall, I would definitely keep in mind Planten un Blomen as the perfect afternoon spent on a warm, relaxing day on a visit to Hamburg in summer and the perfect way to end a cold winter evening during the winter!

[Planten un Blomen.de]

Germany’s Most Beautiful Castles (#11-14)

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Cochem Castle. Taken by Polybert49 via Flickr.

The list of Germany’s most beautiful castles continues on…

11. Hohenschwangau Castle, Bavaria

Hohenschwangau Castle. Taken by Polybert49 via Flickr.
Hohenschwangau Castle. Taken by Polybert49 via Flickr.

Located directly opposite of Germany’s most famous castle (the last on the list here) is the Hohenschwangau Castle. The original structure was built in the 1100s as a fortress by the Knights of Schwangau and controlled until 1535. After this time, he began to fall into ruin until the Bavarian Crown Prince Maximilian bought the land in 1832 and built it as a family home, where he raised his son Ludwig II (you’ll hear more about him later). Consult the Hohenschwangau Castle website for more information.

12. Cochem Castle, Rhineland-Palatinate

Cochem Castle. Taken by Polybert49 via Flickr.
Cochem Castle. Taken by Polybert49 via Flickr.

Dating back to the 1100s, Chochem Castle is a true time passage into medieval life. The small village is located along the banks of the Mosel River, with colorful little historic homes dominated by the castle’s Gothic Tower. Although it was restored in the 1800s, there are still large sections that date back to the original structure. Today, visitors can have guided tours inside, partake in a rustic medieval banquet, known as “Knight’s Meal”, join the medieval castle festival, the gourtmet festival, the Sparkling Wine gala, Cochem Castle Christmas and cultural events. Plus you can even stay in the Burghotel, complete with medieval-themed rooms! Consult the Cochem Castle website for more information.

13. Wartburg Castle, Thuringia

Wartburg Castle. Taken by Lars Gebauer via Flickr.
Wartburg Castle. Taken by Lars Gebauer via Flickr.

The Wartburg is one of, if not the, most historical castles in German history. Built in 1067, it was one of the most important castles of the time. Many famous poets and personalities spent time in the castle such as Goethe, who famously sketched the castle. In 1521 the religious icon Martin Luther stayed in the castle for a year, translating the New Testament of the Bible into German. You can still visit the room today where Luther lived and worked. The Wartburg is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, complete with a museum, medieval banquet hall and countless frescoes. Consult the Wartburg Castle website for more information.

14. Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria

Neuschwanstein Castle Taken by Christian Benseler via Flickr.
Neuschwanstein Castle. Taken by Christian Benseler via Flickr.

Germany’s most famous castle (and many times considered most beautiful) and the inspiration for Walt Disney’s iconic “Cinderella’s Castle” is an absolute must-see on any visit to Bavaria. No matter what season you visit, Neuschwanstein is sure to impress. I went in the winter and although there wasn’t so much snow at the time, it was still beautiful against the backdrop of the rolling hills and mountain peaks. As I wrote about in an earlier article about the infamous castle, Neuschwanstein was actually built in the late 1800s, and was not meant to protect, but rather a place of seclusion and leisure for Bavarian King Ludwig II. One of the best views of the castle is from Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge), which spans over a large waterfall behind the castle. Consult the Neuschwanstein Castle website for more information.

Curry & Chili is Berlin’s Hottest Takeout

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Currywurst at Curry & Chili costs 1,60 Euro.

Guest article: this article is adapted from the Berlin Journal.

Germans know very well the taste of a Berliner Currywurst, but what if you are faced epic spice experience that is Curry & Chili?

For ten years, Frank spit operates on the corner of Prinzenallee in Wedding-Berlin. Photo: Curry-Chili.de
For ten years, Frank spit operates on the corner of Prinzenallee in Wedding-Berlin. Photo: Curry-Chili.de

Ever wonder why you could find men weeping on the streets of Berlin, each with a paper plate in hand? It may be possible that “Curry & Chili” takeout by Frank Spieß on the Osloer Straße corner on Prinzenallee in Berlin-Wedding is to blame.

Ten years ago, Frank Spieß founded his famous hotspot and in Magdeburg in 2012, Curry & Chilli won the title of “Germany’s Spiciest Takeout”. Today, Curry & Chili continues to bring hellishly hot curry sausages for those who have the courage to test their taste tolerance.

Spieß’s spot features 10 levels of spice severity. The first is described as „fruchtig“ (“fruity”), but you can also find ones on the menu with the level of zero. Spiciness is measured on the Scoville scale, which refers to the level in which the sauce must be diluted to be neutralized to humans and not cause any pain due to the heat. A Spiciness Level 1 in Curry & Chili has a 10,000 rating on the Scoville scale. For comparison, Tabasco has up to 5,000 heat units and commercially available pepper spray up to 2 million.

But the difference between Tabasco and sauces a la Spieß, (a sauce for sausage costs 30 cents) is worlds apart. At the top of Spieß’s spicy throne is a pitch-black bottle filled with the maximum Spiciness Level 10. It has a maximum 7.7 million Scoville and is known to bring grown men to tears.

The famous sauces of Curry & Chili. Photo: curry-chili.de
The famous sauces of Curry & Chili. Photo: Curry-Chili.de

“However, one should be cautious with these levels. Shortness of breath, nausea and sweating are part of my everyday guest’s experiences. If it doesn’t go away, then the finger goes in the throat and out with it!” says Spieß. His guests describe the intense pain on their tongue like being stuck with a staple, accompanied by an eerie burning in the stomach.

His visitors don’t only come from Wedding, either. Courageous foodies come from other districts or even countries such as Poland and Austria to have a chance to taste some of Spieß’s hottest sauces. And his club, The Curry & Chili Club, “the hottest club in the world” already boasts an impressive 245 members.

Want to test your spice tolerance at Chili & Curry?

Opening times:

Monday-Friday: 9:30 to 21:00

Saturday: 11:00 to 19:00

Sunday: 13:00 to 18:00

Closed on holidays.

Click here to visit the Chili & Curry Homepage.

For a little background information, the German Currywurst is one of the most popular fast food dishes. More than 2,000 locations nationwide focus on the delicious delicacy.

Currywurst at Curry & Chili costs 1,60 Euro.
Currywurst at Curry & Chili costs 1,60 Euro.

But who invented the currywurst?

This argument continues today between the Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the German capital of Berlin.

In Berlin, credit is given to Herta Heuwer, who is even known as the “Mother of Currywurst” on a Google search!

The Hamburg write Uwe Timm claims in his 1993 novel “The Discovery of Curried Sausage” that the acknowledgement clearly lies with the Hanseatic city.

Regardless of origin, the spiciest currywurst definitely comes from Frank Spieß in Wedding. His motto? “Here, men weep”.

Portugiesenviertel: A Taste Of Portugal In Hamburg

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People hanging out outside restaurants in the Portuguese Quarter. Taken by Alexander Krumeich via Flickr.

Ryanair offers flights from 18,00 Euros from the Northern German city of Hamburg to the Portuguese cities of Porto and Lisbon. That’s a pretty good deal…

Want to know something else pretty cool? You don’t even have to leave Hamburg to experience a little bit of authentic Portugal. That’s right. Hamburg has it’s own Portugiesenviertel (Portuguese neighborhood) right in the heart of the city.

Development Of The Portugiesenviertel

Bird's Eye View Portuguese Quarter, Hamburg. Taken by Glyn Lowe via Flickr.
Bird’s Eye View Portuguese Quarter, Hamburg. Taken by Glyn Lowe via Flickr.

Just next to the famous Landungsbrücken harbor area you will find the Portuguese Quarter, a small collection of streets around the Ditmar-Koel-Straße where Portuguese and Spanish immigrants have settled since the 1960s and 70s. As the neighborhood grew, the new residents brought some of (in my opinion) the best parts of their culture with them in the form of cafes, bars, restaurants and pastelerias.

Today, you will find a mix of southern European restaurants with the majority being Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

How Authentic Is The Cuisine?

Some say that this neighborhood is the best place to get traditional dishes- tapas, fresh seafood and delicious wines from these countries in all of northern Europe!

I’ve visited Italy a few times, Portugal once and lived in Spain for a little over a year. With the experience I’ve gained into the traditional dishes of these cultures, I could confidently say that the food is very authentic, but with a little German influence (like that time I was served boiled potatoes with Calamari at one of the Spanish restaurants there).

People hanging out outside restaurants in the Portuguese Quarter. Taken by Alexander Krumeich via Flickr.
People hanging out outside restaurants in the Portuguese Quarter. Taken by Alexander Krumeich via Flickr.

More than the food, you could just get the vibe of the Mediterranean by walking through the neighborhood. Portuguese, Spanish and Italian are spoken in all of the restaurants (typically as the predominent language), people greet each other with kisses on the cheek and on warm days you can find guests lounging outside in chairs sipping on coffee (no filter coffee here) and chatting the afternoon away.

Restaurants of the Portugiesenviertel

Hamburg is famous for delicious and fresh seafood and the Portuguese Quarter is no exception- of course, with a little bit of a Mediterranean twist! The majority of the restaurants there specialize in seafood and you can find big, delicious plates to share at almost all of them. One of my favorite places for this is O Pescador, which has a special plate full of shrimp, lobster, fish, calamari and other delicious seafood!

O Pescador Restaurant.
O Pescador Restaurant. Taken by IK’s World Trip via Flickr.

My favorite of all the restaurants, not only in the Portuguese Quarter but in all of Hamburg is Luigi’s, a lively Italian place where you feel like you’ve just entered an exciting private party right as you enter the door.

Pizza from Luigi's, Hamburg
Pizza from Luigi’s. Taken by Stephan Mosel via Flickr.

The pizza is inexpensive, huge and super good. The salads are fresh and at the end of the meal they give you a bottle of digestif to make sure you’re visit ends on a great note. Just be wary that this place is packed almost every night so expect to wait a while- not to fear, you get a free glass of Prosecco to hold you over while you wait!

[In Your Pocket]

Germany’s Most Beautiful Castles (#6-10)

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Hohenzollern Castle. Taken by Jim Trodel via Flickr.

Continuing the list of Germany’s most beautiful castles!

6. Burg Hohenzollern, Baden-Württemberg

Hohenzollern Castle. Taken by Jim Trodel via Flickr.
Hohenzollern Castle. Taken by Jim Trodel via Flickr.

One of Germany’s most famous and oldest castles was first mentioned in 1061. Sitting high in the hilltops of the German countryside, the Burg Hohenzollern has been home to the Prussian Royal Family since it was a house on a hilltop in 1061 and then a full castle, built in 1267. It is very rare to find one family in control of a residence such as this for nearly one thousand years but today, the Prince and Princess of Prussia remains the primary caretakers of the property! Visitors can tour the interior of the castle (led by a guide dressed in an authentic Medieval outfit) and during the off-season you can roam through the inside at your own pace. It is recommended to visit in the wintertime, where the castle and its surroundings look like they are out of a winter wonderland! Consult the Burg Hohenzollern website for more information.

7. Lichtenstein Castle, Baden-Württemberg

Lichtenstein Castle. Taken by Widget69 via Flickr.
Lichtenstein Castle. Taken by Widget69 via Flickr.

Hanging at the edge of a steep cliff, connected by a series of bridges, the Lichtenstein Castle is an impressive sight. The Knights of Lichtenstein built the first fortress on the site between 1100 and 1150. It was destroyed and rebuilt over a period of years and in 1937 Count Wilhelm used the foundation of the medieval fortress to built the castle that stands today. Today, you can visit the castle and participate in a guided tour. Consult the Lichtenstein Castle website for more information.

8. Moritzburg Castle, Dresden, Saxony

Moritzburg Castle. Taken by Polybert49 via Flickr.
Moritzburg Castle. Taken by Polybert49 via Flickr.

Built in 1542 by Duke Maurice of Saxony, the castle was originally a hunting lodge built in the Renaissance style. Later, it was rebuilt Baroque style, giving it unique architectural aspects. Located just outside of the city of Dresden, the castle was the famous backdrop for a popular German fairy-tale movie “The Hazelnuts for Cinderella” in the 1970s. You can visit the castle and impressive grounds today and sign up for a variety of guided tours. Consult the Moritzburg Castle website for more information.

9. Burg Eltz, Koblenz, Rheinland-Pfalz

Burg Eltz. Taken by linesinthesand via Flickr.
Burg Eltz. Taken by linesinthesand via Flickr.

Nestled into a lush green valley, the Berg Eltz is one of Germany’s most famous fairy-tale castles. The current structure was built from 1490-1540 and the property has been held in the same family since 1157 (that’s 33 generations!). The Count and Countess Eltz are direct decedents of the original family and continue to live and keep the house today. The Castle is also one of three castles still located in the Rhine region that has not been destroyed or rebuilt significantly over nearly 1,000 years! As the castle is located in the heart of the forest, there is limited access and it is only open from spring to fall each year. You can take a 45-minute hike from the main train station to the castle to see really how beautiful this place is! Consult the Burg Eltz website for more information.

10. Mespelbrunn Castle, Bavaria

Mespelbrunn Castle. Taken by François Philipp via Flickr.
Mespelbrunn Castle. Taken by François Philipp via Flickr.

Out of a fairy-tale the Mespelbrunn Castle is tucked away in the valley between Frankfurt and Würzburg. It is surrounded by a natural moat, which gives the illusion that the castle is nearly floating on top of the water. It was actually original built as a farmhouse in the 1100s, but numerous fortifications and a tower were added in 1427 to today. Consult the Mespelbrunn Castle website for more information.

And there’s more beautiful German castles yet to come!

A List of Germany’s Most Beautiful Castles (#1-5)

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Schwerin Castle. Taken by Michael Behrens via Flickr.

The art of the Schlöss has long been perfected in Germany. Built some hundreds of years ago- to protect towns from attacks and pillagers, to provide privacy to an elusive king, to show the power and wealthy of the elite- Germany’s collection of castles are some of the most beautiful in Europe.

1. Löwenburg, Hessen, Kassel

Löwenburg. Taken by sanny1175 via Flickr.
Löwenburg. Taken by sanny1175 via Flickr.

Modeled after a real Medieval knight’s castle, the Löwenburg (Lion’s Castle) was the private residence of Landgrave Wilhelm IX from 1793 to 1800. It is an architectural gem that served as both a fortress and leisure palace, with many turrets, bay windows and elaborate decorations. Although it fell into ruin after the death of Landgrave, it is today part of the larger Wilhelmshöhe Park and open to the public as a museum. Inside, you can see the former ornately decorated living rooms, an extensive weapons collection, a rich assortment of historical furniture, paintings, tapestries and medieval stained glass windows. Consult the Löwenburg Castle Website for more information.

2. Schwerin Castle, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Schwerin Castle. Taken by Michael Behrens via Flickr.
Schwerin Castle. Taken by Michael Behrens via Flickr.

One of the most picturesque settings, Schwerin Castle is located on an island in the middle of Lake Schwerin, Germany’s third largest lake. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful and most important castles of Romantic Historicism in Northern Europe. This location has long provided strategic protection and there has been a fortress there since the year 973, when the Slavs settled in the area. The building you see today was commissioned, expanded and rebuilt by Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin between the years of 1845 and 1857 to include 653 rooms! Surrounding the castle grounds is a Burggarten garden and extensive parkland inspired by local traditions and French castle along the Loire.

Today, you can visit the Museum Schlöss Schwerin, full of artwork, an extensive porcelain collection and a collection of royal hunting and decorative weapons. The castle is also the home of the State Parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Consult the Schwerin Castle website for more information.

3. Ahrensburg Castle, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein

Ahrensburg Castle. Taken by storebukkebruse via Flickr.
Ahrensburg Castle. Taken by storebukkebruse via Flickr.

Just a quick day trip from Hamburg is the Ahrensburg Castle, built in 1595. Although it was originally referred to as a mansion, today it maintains the name of “castle” and is a symbol of the town of Ahrensburg. It serves mainly as a museum and event venue. Throughout the year you can find summer theatres performances, musical concerts and even a medieval market. Consult the Ahrensburg Castle website for more information.

4. Heidelburg Castle, Baden-Württemberg

Heidelburg Castle. Taken by Michael Theis via Flickr.
Heidelburg Castle. Taken by Michael Theis via Flickr.

Featured in a previous article, the Heidelberg Castle is a must-see on any trip to Germany! During its full glory it was considered one of the most impressive in Germany and even today its ruins towering over the town below are still a striking sight. The original castle was completed in the 13th century and has endured a serious of expansions, fires, attacks and rebuilding throughout the years. Today, you can visit the exterior grounds, with beautiful views of the valley below, but a private tour is required to visit the interior. Consult the Heidelburg Castle website for more information.

5. Stahleck Castle, Rhineland-Palatinate

Stahleck Castle. Taken by Wei-Te Wong via Flickr.
Stahleck Castle. Taken by Wei-Te Wong via Flickr.

Looking to go back in time to the Middle Ages? Have no fear! Stahleck Castle is now open as a youth hostel, dating back to the year 1135. Surrounded by peaceful woods with a beautiful view of the Lorelei Valley in the Rhine Gorge. The main streets near the castle has been restored to give an impression of what it may have looked like in the middle ages with cozy courtyards and wine taverns. Want to book a room? Click here.

Stay tuned for more of Germany’s most beautiful castles!

My Favorite Souvenir Holiday Gifts From Hamburg

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Niederegger Lubeck Marzipan heart. Taken by Alpha via Flickr.

When you live abroad, going home for the holidays is a welcome retreat. One of my favorite things about going home for Christmas is picking out cool presents in Germany that I know my family in the U.S. won’t have access to.

The most important thing for me when buying some Christmas presents is to consider something that is cool and unique to the area that I live in. But at the same time, I also want to give something with a purpose. Needless to say a little figurine of a ship with the word “Hamburg” on it isn’t really optimal.

Plus, bringing presents from another country gives a little bit of an “exotic” factor, so you don’t have to spend very much money for the receiver to get excited!

Instead, here are my top 5 souvenir presents to bring back from Hamburg:

1. Chocolates or sweets

German chocolate and other candies are really delicious. I especially love to bring back marzipan treats from the company Niederegger, which is founded in the city of Lübeck, just an hour or so north of Hamburg. As well as being delicious, I know this is a really good quality product that is made from 100% almond paste and no sugar. Plus, it looks special to bring back a locally produced product.

Niederegger Lubeck Marzipan heart. Taken by Alpha via Flickr.
Niederegger Lubeck Marzipan heart. Taken by Alpha via Flickr.

2. Beer

Everyone knows that Germany is famous for having great beer. Pilsner, wheat beer and other varieties are famous, especially because of huge festivals such as the Oktoberfest in Munich. My favorite kind to bring home, however, is from a craft brewery in Hamburg known as Ratsherrn. As well as being one of my favorite beers ever, they also have lots of cool seasonal flavors that are perfect gifts for the holiday season.

Ratherrn Beer. Taken by By PiaHonolulu (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ratherrn Beer. Taken by By PiaHonolulu (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

3. Ornament or Decoration

German Christmas markets are the optimal place to find nice ornaments or decorations that are a great gift for the holiday season. You can definitely find ones that are in English, but I think it’s more special to give an ornament that says something in German such as “Frohe Weihnachten” (Merry Christmas). This way, it can always be a reminder of your time abroad and it’s a great conversation starter hanging on the tree! One of the most famous makers of German Christmas decorations is Käthe Wohlfahrt, which you can find at most Christmas Markets such as the Hamburg Rathaus Christmas Market.

Käthe Wohlfahrt shop in Germany. Taken by By Photo: Andreas Praefcke (Own work (own photograph)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Käthe Wohlfahrt shop in Germany. Taken by By Photo: Andreas Praefcke (Own work (own photograph)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

4. Souvenir mugs

For those who love their morning coffee or tea, a souvenir mug is a great idea. I love to collect mugs from the different places I’ve visited along the way. Each morning, drinking out of one of my many souvenir mugs, I am always reminded of that happy memory of my trip. If you want to a bit of a rebel, the best souvenir mugs come from the Christmas markets themselves. You have to pay a deposit when you order a drink that comes in a mug anyway, so if you don’t return the mug you don’t get the deposit back… but hey who doesn’t want a cool mug with an interesting back-story?

Christmas market mugs. Taken by Alex Liivet via Flickr.
Christmas market mugs. Taken by Alex Liivet via Flickr.

5. Typical foods

It may sound silly to someone who grew up in Germany, but one of my favorite things to bring home is the bread spreads known as “streichcreme” that are sold at any supermarket. They are super typical for Germans, but as someone who grew up in the U.S. I’ve never had that before and they are totally delicious!

What are your favorite souvenirs?

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