Month: June 2014

Introduction to Italy: Verona and Turin

First gelato of many in Italy.

Having my first gelato of the Italian portion of our trip in Verona. 

The train ride from Munich to Verona went through the Austrian Alps, and it was beautiful. The ride was about five and a half hours long, but most of it was going by mountains and rivers and snow-capped Alps, so there was plenty to look at and it went by fast. We also got first-class tickets, since when we bought them they were virtually the same price as second class (which is always exciting when that happens). The first-class cabin was roomy and nice, and a lady across the aisle had a biggish dog on her lap that amused me for a big chunk of the ride. The towns near the Italian border were indistinguishable from Austrian towns, but as we started to get farther from the border, the hills began being covered in vineyards, and the towns started taking on a more Italian feel.

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Train view.

First glimpse of Italy.

Italy!

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Slight backtrack: we had to meet up with our housesitting host at the Munich train station at noon, and I was really nervous about this. Driving in bigger cities is always a bit scary, and figuring out parking can be difficult. I knew there were parking lots at the train station, but we didn’t know if finding them would be hard. Turns out it wasn’t that bad, but when we pulled into the parking lot, there was a big door covering the entrance. We figured that lot was closed, so we moved onto the next one, which had the same door. I decided we should risk it and drive up to it and take a ticket to see what would happen. The door opened, revealing a small room, completely enclosed, that we were obviously supposed to drive into. It didn’t even look big enough to hold our massive Volvo station wagon, and we had no idea where it was going to take us. We drove into the car elevator, the doors closed, and it’s a good thing neither of us are super claustrophobic, because it was a tight fit. The elevator eventually started moving, and we were brought to the sixth floor of the parking deck. Thankfully everything worked out and we didn’t get stuck in a weird car elevator, but it was kind of scary.

Anyway, our final destination was Turin to meet up with my parents, but since our train was at 1:30pm from Munich, we couldn’t catch a late train from Verona to Turin, so we decided to spend the night in Verona. As soon as we got there (and after lugging our suitcases and heavy backpacks 20 minutes longer than we should have because we got lost), we immediately headed to dinner. We had pizza and wine on our minds, and we were on a mission. We found a place recommended online, and didn’t have to wait that long to get a table. We ordered a liter of red wine, and for some reason we didn’t think it was going to be that much. It ended up being a big pitcher (bigger than a bottle), and got many strange looks from our dining neighbors. As we looked around more, we noticed that people were mostly drinking Cokes, with a small glass of beer or wine occasionally in the mix. We thought it was strange that nobody was really drinking wine, but tried to discreetly gulp it down quickly so we would stop getting attention from it (didn’t work). I don’t have any pictures of our dinner, but I did take this one of the mural that took up the entire wall of the bathroom.

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After dinner, we wandered around Verona in search of gelato. It wasn’t hard to find. There was a really nice piazza near Juliet’s house (we got there too late to visit the house and balcony), and the weather was nice and pleasant. Here are some bad quality pictures that I took with my phone around Verona.

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Juliet's house.

Juliet’s house.

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Looking through the gate at Juliet’s house, with love notes written all along the hallway.

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The arena in central Verona.

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The next morning, we took the train from Verona to Turin, which only took a couple hours. After talking to my dad and hearing how difficult it was to find the house we rented on Airbnb in the hills above Turin, we decided to take a cab there. Our cab driver got kind of lost, but nowhere near as bad as the one that my parents hired to lead them to the house in the rain the night before. The road leading to the house went through tiny villages that could only fit one car, so cars were constantly trying to get out of the way of others, and honking to let them know they were coming around blind turns. It was pretty harrowing, and my dad had to drive our rental car through many roads like this in our time in Italy, and it never got easier. Once we reached the house though, it was so nice and spacious, and the view was incredible.

The view from our bedroom window.

The view from our bedroom window in Turin.

The view of the Italian Alps from the house on a clear day.

The view of the Italian Alps from the house on a clear day.

We spent our six days in Turin visiting the National Museum of Cinema, I ran a few times, we took day trips to the countryside, and we ate really good food (including all the meals my mom cooked).

Not sure if anyone has been to any of the Eataly locations, but the one in Turin is the original. It is a haven for upscale Italian groceries and food. The one Jeremy and I visited in NYC was so crowded with tourists it was kind of impossible to actually look at anything. This one seemed like it was just a grocery store where local people were buying their bread, meats, cheeses, fish, fresh pasta, or pretty much anything else you can think of. I highly recommend visiting one if you are ever near a location.

Not sure if anyone has been to any of the Eataly locations, but this is the original. It is a haven for upscale Italian groceries and food. The one Jeremy and I visited in NYC was so crowded with tourists it was kind of impossible to actually look at anything. This one seemed like it was just a grocery store where local people were buying their bread, meats, cheeses, fish, fresh pasta, or pretty much anything else you can think of. I highly recommend visiting one if you are ever near a location.

Rows and rows of pasta.

Rows and rows of pasta.

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I can't resist things that have pistachio in them, and this cheese we got at Eataly was delicious.

I can’t resist things that have pistachios in them, and this cheese we got at Eataly was delicious.

The first day we were in Turin, we made sure to get a bicerin, a drink that originated there. It’s a layer of espresso, then drinking chocolate, then whole milk. We went to the café that claims to have first created it, and it was heavenly.

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The bicerin, one of the greatest creations of all time.

The National Museum of Cinema was really fun, and not at all what we were expecting. There were many interactive exhibits, and I had to put aside my fear of heights to take a glass elevator to the top of the building to look at the view.

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Hopefully the future of movie theaters: there was a huge screen above these comfortable seats playing movies, and speakers were in the seats.

There were a lot of references to different movies, which unfortunately I didn't get because I haven't watched enough movies.

There were a lot of references to different movies, which unfortunately I didn’t get because I haven’t watched enough movies.

Jeremy sitting on a toilet watching Young Frankenstein.

Jeremy sitting on a toilet watching Young Frankenstein.

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The glass elevator went through this big room and into the hole at the top. Felt like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

At the top.

At the top.

We asked a nice lady to take a picture of us with the view behind us, but she insisted on taking only super close-up pictures.

We asked a nice lady to take a picture of us with the view behind, but she insisted on taking only super close-up pictures.

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Jeremy partaking in an interactive exhibit that also felt like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Jeremy partaking in an interactive exhibit that also felt like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Next up: our adventures into the Italian countryside and my runs in Turin.

Our Fourth Housesitting Assignment: Iffeldorf, Germany

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Oops, it’s been a while. We’re in Sarzana, Italy with my parents and we haven’t had strong internet for the past week and a half, so it was tough to post. We are hopping on a train today to spend the night in Pisa, then on to Rome tomorrow, which I’m pretty excited about since I’ve never been. I wanted to finish up our time in Bavaria, since it was so memorable.

We weren’t sure about taking this housesitting since it was for two whole weeks and it was during the time my parents were going to be in Europe. It turned out to be a really great decision though, especially since my parents ended up driving us to Munich, and then we met back up with them after the assignment was over. Our host in Germany also let us use her automatic car, which made a big difference, since we were able to explore a lot of Bavaria. Besides the incredible hike we went on complete with beer and pretzels near the top of the mountain and some beautiful runs on the trails near the house we were sitting, there were multiple other highlights as well.

Visiting Linderhof Palace

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Linderhof Palace, according to Wikipedia, is the “smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and the only one which he lived to see completed.” King Ludwig II seems to be quite the interesting character, and Jeremy and I decided to pay to take a tour of the palace, something we rarely do as budget travelers. Ludwig took over the throne in Bavaria at 18, and he built elaborate castles (we visited another one of his castles, Neuschwanstein) before he was mysteriously found dead in a lake at age 41. He also had a strong fascination with Wagner, which influenced parts of the palace we toured.

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We couldn’t take any pictures of the inside of the palace (even though Jeremy tried to sneak one and got caught!), but you can see some of the rooms online. The most interesting room to us was the dining room, where there was a table that Ludwig would eat at alone and the table had a pulley system (called “Tischlein deck dich”), so the table would lower into the staff’s quarters and they would make up the table and put food on it, and raise it back up to where Ludwig was sitting. There was also a big mirror in front of the table, so that Ludwig was dining with himself every time he ate. The tour guide didn’t say this, but on Wikipedia it says that the staff had to make up the table for four people, and Ludwig would have imaginary conversations with them while he ate.

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I was excited to see a palm tree.

Another really interesting part of the palace was the grotto, which Ludwig had built for him. People would put on Wagner operas for him in this man-made grotto, and he would sit in this big clam shell and they pushed him around in the water. He was the only spectator of the opera.

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Day Tripping: Salzburg, Austria

I really wanted to visit Austria since I’d never been, and we decided to visit Salzburg (even though Innsbruck was a little closer) for the day, where Sound of Music was filmed. It was about a two-hour drive, and it wasn’t bad. We had to buy a permit to drive in Austria, but nobody checked it. It was a little nerve-wracking to drive in Salzburg, as it is in any city really, but luckily I only got massively honked at by a line of cars once. And we missed the turn for the parking lot two times and kept circling around the city in our big old Volvo station wagon, and ended up pulling into the parking lot of Augustiner Bräu monastery/brewery. It was perfect. We had to wait a little while for them to start serving beer, so we walked around town a bit.

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You know a city is magical if they have unicorn statues around.

You know a city is magical if they have unicorn statues around.

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I'm such a sucker for plants that look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book.

I’m such a sucker for plants that look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book.

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DSC_4475 We headed back to the brewery to get some food and delicious beer, straight from the barrels.

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You can’t really see them because they’re white, but there was a guy serving shaved radishes with salt and we got some. They were really good.

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The halls were filled with food stands.

Anniversary Dinner

Jeremy and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary by exploring Starnberger See, a big lake nearby with lots of cute towns around it. This is also the lake where King Ludwig was found dead. We ate dinner at a nice restaurant in our little town, outside overlooking the local lakes.

Starnberger See.

Starnberger See. The water was crystal clear.

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Finally got to wear the one nice dress I packed.

Kloster Andechs

Our housesitting host gave us some suggestions on things to do around Iffeldorf, and visiting Kloster Andechs was high on her list, with good reason. It is another monastery that brews beer, and it’s location on the top of a hill makes for really nice views while you sit outside and enjoy a liter of beer. You can also hike up there from a neighboring town which takes about an hour, but both times we went it was late so we just drove up to it.

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Fishes on sticks.

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The monastery.

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DSC_4568  We had such a good time in Bavaria, I do feel like I could live there. The cats we were taking care of didn’t warm up to us too much, but they were still nice to have around for the most part.

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My dream chocolate bar.

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Making friends.

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The biggest birdhouse I’ve ever seen.

You ain't kidding.

You ain’t kidding.

Our last meal at the train station before heading to Verona. Goodbye Germany! For now...

Our last meal at the train station before heading to Verona. Goodbye Germany! For now…

Does anyone have any tips on places to eat or whatnot in Rome?

Running in Germany

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I have been enjoying some really great runs here in Bavaria. There are about six lakes right near the house we’re sitting that have paths all around them, and go on forever. One thing I’ve noticed about Germany (and Switzerland) is how accessible everything is for hikers/bikers/runners. There are paths everywhere, away from the road, and there are tons of people utilizing them. I didn’t really expect to be trail running while here, but it has turned into a really good thing. The paths are easier on my knees, there are hills so I can work on my form going up those, there are no cars around (except for one small portion of one trail, which I didn’t realize and almost got side swiped), there are cows everywhere, beautiful scenery, etc.

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My runs have been in the 4-6 mile range, and all of them have felt pretty good. A couple days this week were REALLY hot and humid (like 90 degrees, which I haven’t felt in years), and that was really a struggle. The day after we went hiking in the Alps was also tough; my legs felt like lead. But I have noticed progress in the past two weeks we’ve been here; at the beginning even my easy pace felt hard, but now I feel like I’m back to my old self… sort of. Yesterday I got up early (like 5 am early, I’ve been having sleeping problems from the heat), and got out on the trails before anyone else did. I broke lots of spider webs, so I knew I was the first one out. I really wanted to just run for a while and see where it took me, and that’s exactly what happened. I ended up doing 7.5 miles at a 10 min/mile pace, which was just fine by me. The weather was perfect, some bikers and hikers were out by the time I was finishing up, but overall I pretty much had the whole place to myself.

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IMG_6006 IMG_0083 I’m trying to work on getting my endurance back, without doing too much too soon. My knee has been fine, and fingers crossed it stays that way. Our travel plans are a little up in the air at the moment due to monetary concerns, but I’ve got my eye on a half marathon in September here in Europe that I really want to do. I would be bummed to go home before doing at least one race abroad. After that, assuming we’re home, I’m going to sign up for the Santa Barbara International Half Marathon on November 8, which I ran last year. I think that’ll be a nice welcome home for me. My goal is still to break two hours in the half marathon, and hopefully that’ll happen soon.

Still trying to be proactive about my knee - icing it with

Still trying to be proactive about my knee – icing it with frozen raspberries.

It’s going to be a bit tougher getting my runs in after we leave Germany since we’ll be going to bigger cities. It’s been so great having these paths right outside our door. We’re heading to Italy on Sunday and will be there for a good bit, and it’s already really hot there. So, I have to work on getting out of the house early, which will help with the traffic situation too. I’ve been looking up routes that I can run, and I try to book our accommodations close to parks so that I have easy access away from busy streets.

It’s been a lot harder staying in shape while traveling than I was anticipating, but I’ll save that for another post.

Happy Friday the Thirteenth! Jeremy and I are off to a monastery on a hill that brews delicious beer (we know it’s delicious because we went yesterday, too).

Hiking in the Bavarian Alps

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Friday will go down as a huge highlight in our travel adventures. This post will be pretty picture-heavy (but when are they not, honestly), because words can’t really describe how incredible the day was (iPhone pictures don’t really do it justice, either). Jeremy and I are having a nice time housesitting in a small village south of Munich, and our host left us a car (an automatic, hallelujah) so we’ve been able to do some exploring. I had no idea how much there is to do around these parts, and how beautiful Bavaria is. We decided to venture south, almost to the Austrian border, to do some hiking. The main reason we chose this spot is because I found out there was an alpine coaster that I knew we had to ride.

We drove the autobahn (where there is NO speed limit), and that was an experience in itself. We got up to about 110 miles per hour, and there were still people zooming past us. It was crazy. Once we got to the village of Oberammergau, we took a chairlift halfway up the mountain. It went on for ten minutes at least, and the views were beautiful.

Chairlift out-of-focus selfie.

Chairlift out-of-focus selfie.

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Got a good view of the alpine coaster track that we’d be riding in a few hours.

There was a playground with a zipline where the chairlift let off.

There was a playground with a zipline where the chairlift let off.

We picked a spot on the map to start hiking to, without really knowing how long it would take or where it would take us.

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The trail turned into a road, where it got really steep.

I decided to run up the hill so it wouldn't take as long.

I decided to run up the hill so it wouldn’t take as long.

The road turned back into a trail, and that’s when the views started getting REALLY good.

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Shortly after we took these pictures, we came across an alpine hut that served food and beer. I realized only the day after that it was actually on this list of places I wanted to visit. It is called August-Schuster-Haus, and has been around since the early 1800s. We opted for some weissbier (wheat beer, so refreshing) and a pretzel, which was fresh and still warm. My mouth is watering just thinking about the beer and pretzel, my god they were delicious. The Germans do it right.

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The inside of the alpine hut.

The inside of the alpine hut.

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Imagine having this view at your place of work.

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It was hard to leave, but we eventually started making our way to the top again, which is when the trail started getting pretty steep, and the experience level turned to red triangles instead of green. After just having a half liter of beer on an empty stomach in a very high altitude, this could have been a bad idea. But we were feeling great (thanks, beer) and had lots of energy to climb our way up without falling down the side of the mountain.

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Almost to the top – we had to use the rope on the left side of the picture to climb the rocks.

When we made it, we took some time in silence to stare in disbelief at the view (and then take lots of pictures, naturally), which is what the few other people that were there were doing too.

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There were crosses with plaques at the peaks of many mountains we saw.

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Made it to the cross.

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I’m happy to report that this entire day was filled with heights that could have filled me with fear, but never once did I feel scared (could have been liquid courage). Maybe I’m not as scared of heights as I thought, only rickety bridges.

Making our way back down to the alpine coaster was all downhill, and we ran a lot of it since it seemed harder to go slowly.

Frolicking down the mountain.

Frolicking down the mountain.

We made it to the alpine coaster, and it was so fun. It went on forever, and it went SO FAST.

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Here’s a video from the alpine coaster website, let’s see if it works.

We may have to do the whole day over again before we leave!

One Year

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Today, June 7, is the one-year anniversary of the day Jeremy and I got married! It seriously does not feel like a year already; it seems like I was losing my mind planning the wedding just a few months ago. Even though it was super stressful to plan, everything was worth it and the day went smoothly, and it was so fun having all of our Georgia friends and family fly out for the week.

LJ_details_010We wanted a really simple, small wedding, foregoing a lot of the traditional wedding stuff (bridal party, first dance, bouquet toss, etc.), and I think we accomplished that. We didn’t have a color scheme or anything, we just wanted bright flowers, with a general theme of poppies (the California state flower). We wanted to show our out-of-town friends the beauty of Santa Barbara, and I knew the ocean had to be involved in some way. We were lucky enough to have a family friend offer to host the ceremony at her beach house on one of my favorite beaches (and on the same street as my preschool), and then we shuttled people over to the San Ysidro Ranch for cocktail hour and a sit-down dinner. After dinner, a trolley came to pick everyone up and dropped us off downtown for more celebration. All in all, it was so much fun and it was exactly what we wanted, and I’m so happy we chose the photographer we did (it makes a huge difference!).

Here are some shots from the day! Photos by Esther Sun Photography.

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Me and my grandma. I love this picture.

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We had guests write notes on vintage California postcards I found at a thrift store.

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The San Ysidro Ranch is a magical place.

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We started the year in Santa Barbara, and within the next few months, would pack up our apartment, drive across the country, and depart on this crazy traveling adventure we’re on now. We’re going to celebrate by going to dinner at a lake-side restaurant in our little village here in Germany, and doing some hiking in the Bavarian Alps this afternoon. We shall see what the next year has in store for us!

How I Discovered My Fear of Heights

DSC_4272 After a day spent wandering around Munich, my parents, Jeremy and I piled back into our little VW to head south to reach Neuschwanstein Castle, which Disney modeled the Sleeping Beauty Castle after (apparently). Acting as navigator once again, I wanted to get us there by taking the Romantic Road, a route that would lead us through charming Bavarian towns and worthy places to stop. We had no time constraints, so we figured we would just start driving and see where it took us.

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When it was approaching lunchtime, we started looking around for places to eat. The villages we drove through looked absolutely dead; all stores were closed. It seemed like it might have just been lunchtime closures at first (something we had grown accustomed to in France), but after a while it did seem like something was going on. We finally landed in one town, and started to see people in traditional lederhosen heading in a direction where we could hear some music, and knew we had to follow. We parked the car, and followed the smell of bratwurst to an outdoor festival. There was beer, bratwurst, cake, and music, and we sat down to indulge in the village’s holiday celebration. We asked two people at our table what the holiday was, and in their limited English explained that it was Ascension Day, celebrating Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. It is also sometimes called Father’s Day, which I had seen signs for, but didn’t realize what it was referring to. I don’t eat meat except for fish, and my dad hasn’t eaten red meat in, say, 40 years or so, but when you find yourself in the midst of a Bavarian village celebration and they are only serving homemade bratwurst, you eat a homemade bratwurst. We all had one, and they were delicious.

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My mom and I had a really hard time deciding between all the different homemade cakes, but finally settled for these two, a chocolate/banana slice and an apricot slice.

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Out of focus picture means I was too impatient to get it right before digging in.

As it often happens here in Bavaria, it was sunny when we arrived but storm clouds began approaching rapidly, and the band packed up their instruments. The rain started falling as we were walking back to our car; it was perfect timing, really. We got back in, and continued our journey south.

Pretty little village.

Pretty little village.

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These storm clouds don’t mess around.

Our next stop was the Wieskirche in Steingaden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It doesn’t look like much walking up to it, but once you step inside, the rococo-designed church that dates back to the 1740s is really something.

The Wieskirche in Steingaden.

The Wieskirche in Steingaden.

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Hi, dad!

Hi, dad!

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After leaving Steingaden, we didn’t have much further to drive until reaching Neuschwanstein Castle. We stopped at a gas station, where Jeremy and I had our first truly rude experience in Europe (after over two months, I’d say that’s pretty good). I wanted to ease our hurt feelings with huge fried balls of dough covered in chocolate, a Bavarian specialty, but I refrained.

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Pulling up to Schwangau, we got our first glimpse of the castle.

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We hiked up to it, but there were busses or horse-drawn carriages that you could take up the steep hill instead. It took about thirty minutes of climbing (with beautiful views along the way), but we finally made it.

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Getting closer…

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Made it!

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After walking around a bit outside (tickets to tour the castle were sold out), we wanted to find a bridge I had read about online, called Marienbrücke, where you could get a really good view of the castle from above. It was a bit more hiking, but we found it, and now my stomach turns just thinking about it. I had no idea how high up it was going to be, and what a dinky little bridge it was going to be. I was paralyzed with fear as soon as we approached it.

I have never been afraid of heights, and consider myself a pretty brave person. Growing up, I remember being nervous about doing things for the first time (like riding a roller coaster, but who isn’t?), but after being talked into doing it (usually by my brother), I loved it and wasn’t afraid after that. I don’t know if it’s because the older I’m getting, the more of a wus I’m becoming, but this bridge scared the hell out of me. It didn’t help that it had started raining, it was windy, and there were huge storm clouds ahead. The bridge is made of wooden panels you walk across, that move when you step on them. I couldn’t fathom how everybody was nonchalantly walking across, like it was nothing. I was gripping the handle so tight and wouldn’t budge, and I wasn’t even on the bridge yet. Jeremy came and got me and finally convinced me to walk across, and I basically had a panic attack as I did, and couldn’t look at anything except the unstable wooden panels beneath my feet. I didn’t even look at the castle. All I could think about was a lightning bolt hitting the bridge, and falling to my death. I didn’t get any pictures because of my debilitating fear, but luckily Jeremy and my dad did.

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Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrücke bridge.

I tried to find a picture online of the bridge and how high it was to make people understand my fears, but I couldn’t find a good one. You guys will just have to believe me.

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 After going back across the bridge, I really wanted a picture of me and Jeremy on it with the castle behind and knew I’d regret if I didn’t get one, but obviously I wasn’t going to walk out onto the middle of the bridge like the thousands of other lunatics that do daily (the castle gets 6,000 visitors a day on average), so I shuffled out just a few feet, and grabbed onto Jeremy for dear life. It’s one of my favorite pictures from our adventures so far.

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I feel like a real sissy now, especially seeing how many people just walked across it no problem. I’m hoping this was just a fluke, and that my bravery returns.

Anybody else afraid of heights? (Please say yes.)

Merrymaking in Munich

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What a great city. It was the first time in Munich for all of us (me, Jeremy, and my parents), and nobody was quite sure what to expect. Jeremy and I are housesitting in Bavaria, and luckily my parents decided to drive us since they didn’t have any other plans. We left Honfleur around noon, and knew we had a long day of driving ahead of us. I was the navigator, and relied on a map that looked like this (we didn’t go through Frankfurt, but it was a good representation of the German map I was relying on):

Is this a cruel joke, Germany?

Is this a cruel joke, Germany?

Good thing I had some chocolate for navigation energy (essential on a long road trip).

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We finally rolled into the city around 10pm and arrived at mine and Jeremy’s Airbnb (a few blocks away from my parents’ hotel), where this was waiting for us:

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I normally don’t drink much beer and usually stick to red wine in California and of course in France, but WHOA the beer in Germany is SO GOOD. I haven’t had wine since we left France, and every beer I’ve had here has been more delicious than the next.

The day after we arrived it was Jeremy’s birthday (28 on the 28th!), and we started the day by finding some breakfast. Our apartment was just a couple blocks from the train station, and we were both craving a BIG cup of coffee (which we hadn’t had since we left America, really). Munich definitely has a more American feel when it comes to restaurants and coffee shops, and we found some really good coffee in large to-go cups. Ah, the comforts of home. The train station has a very impressive selection of restaurants on every level, and each one looked really good, but when we walked by a Mexican place serving breakfast burritos, we knew we had found the perfect birthday breakfast. I know it seems weird to eat Mexican food in Germany, but we could see the burritos and the ingredients and the tortillas looked good. And how can you mess up a tortilla stuffed with cheese and eggs? It turned out to be a good decision, and the burritos were delicious (they even had guacamole and really good salsa inside).

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Success!

Success!

After breakfast, we walked all over the city, and marveled at the impressive architecture that seemed to surprise us at every turn.

My mom and her new friend.

My mom and her new friend.

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Does this not remind you of “It’s a Small World”? I had it stuck in my head while we were walking around, and then an oompah band played it at a beer hall (or what sounded like it at least…), so I guess it’s not just me.

 

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I’ll never get over how cute these little vehicles are.

I thought we escaped the tempting treats when we left France. Oh, how wrong I was.

I thought we escaped the tempting treats when we left France. Oh, how wrong I was.

The birthday boy!

The birthday boy!

Guess Munich knew he was coming.

Guess Munich knew he was coming.

For dinner, we went to Hofbräuhaus, the most well-known beer hall in Munich. It’s kind of a requirement for every visitor to go at least once, so we knew it was going to be crowded. Luckily, it holds thousands of people, and the efficiency of service is down to a science. We sat ourselves, and didn’t have to wait long to get served liters of beer and traditional German food. With the oompah band playing and everybody drinking and talking and occasionally singing along, it is pretty much impossible to not have a good time at a beer hall.

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Originally built in 1589!

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My Spätzle with fried onions on top, my mom’s Wiener Schnitzel in the background. And lots of bread in between.

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Apple Strudel, a Bavarian specialty.

We waddled our stuffed selves back to our respective accommodations, and I took some pictures along the way.

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We will own one of these someday.

We will own one of these someday.

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The New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) in Marienplatz.

The New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) in Marienplatz.

The next you see me, I might be wearing one of these.

The next time you see me, I might be wearing one of these.

The next couple days were filled with a drive south on the Romantic Road to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle (more on that later), and more eating, walking around, and beer drinking.

We found a place near our apartment called Veggie Döner and oh my god it was delicious. The seitan (basically vegetarian 'meat' made out of wheat gluten) was cooked on a spit like regular kebab meat, and shaved off and put in a tortilla with lots of other good stuff. And there were other Turkish goodies that looked delicious also.

We found a place near our apartment called Veggie Döner and oh my god it was delicious. The seitan (basically vegetarian ‘meat’ made out of wheat gluten) was cooked on a spit like regular kebab meat, and shaved off and put in a tortilla with lots of other good stuff. And there were other Turkish goodies that looked really tasty also.

I want another one.

I want another one.

Visiting the Chinesischer Turm biergarten in the English Garden with a pretzel bigger than my head (and that's saying a lot because I have a huge head).

Visiting the Chinesischer Turm biergarten in the English Garden with a pretzel bigger than my head (and that’s saying a lot because I have a huge head).

A fresh seafood sandwich from one of the many restaurants in the Viktualienmarkt, a food market that is open every day in the center of Munich.

A fresh seafood sandwich from one of the many restaurants in the impressive Viktualienmarkt, a food market that is open every day in the center of Munich.

The Englischer Garten (English Garden) is beautiful and humungous (and bigger than Central Park) and starts in the city center. I wanted to run here, but didn't make it. One day!

The Englischer Garten (English Garden) is beautiful and massive (bigger than Central Park) and starts in the city center. I wanted to run here, but didn’t make it. One day!

We stumbled across a puppet show in the underground mall we also found accidentally. Germany is pretty cool.

We stumbled across a puppet show in the underground mall we also found accidentally. Germany is pretty cool.

Like I said, we really really loved Munich, and are now enjoying the beauty of the Bavarian countryside in the house we’re looking after. Happy June!