European Vacation: Italy, Germany, Switzerland and a few places and lessons in-between

6.16.17

Alsace, France // Frankfurt, Germany // day seven

From our hotel in Engleberg, Switzerland we traveled by bus through the Alsace Region of France to Frankfurt, Germany. Our stop in Eguisheim, France was straight out of a Disney movie, and we walked around singing songs from Beauty and the Beast most of the time. There were adorable pastry shops as well as magnificent vineyards surrounding the entire town. Our lunch was at a great local restaurant where I was able to find my favorite French red wine which I paired with a fantastic salad. If I hadn’t already been making room for the two bottles of Italian wine, I would have picked up another bottle of this Cote de Rhone perfection. We were able to wander the streets and pick up a few more postcards before continuing towards Frankfurt, Germany.

Once we got settled into our hotel in Frankfurt, we visited the Maintower which is located in the financial district of the city. Frankfurt has been nicknamed “Bankfurt” by some as it is the banking center of Germany. We eventually made our way over through Old Town Frankfurt to a local beer house for dinner where we ate family style outside and enjoyed a popular German cider called apfelwein.

We ended our day with a night out in Frankfurt singing karaoke and getting to know some of the locals!

Next up: Heidelberg, Germany

European Vacation: Italy, Germany, Switzerland and a few places and lessons in-between

6.15.17

Lucerne, Switzerland // Swiss Alps // day six

Our adventures through Lucerne and the Swiss Alps were to date, and by far, my favorite part of the trip. Mountains just make me happy. From our hotel in Engleberg we took a bus to Lucerne, jumped on a boat across the lake to the foothills of the Alps and finally a cogwheel train to the top of the mountain (a whopping 6,000 feet!). Before we ventured up the mountain, we grabbed coffee and lunch in the city of Lucerne where we came across a parade and were surprised with a cannonball welcoming. We later learned that it was a national holiday in Switzerland celebrating Corpius Christi. While most of the local stores were closed due to the holiday, it was a lot of fun to explore the streets and window shop before our boat ride across the lake.

The mountain air was incredible and the views were indescribable. Everything was gorgeous and perfect, and I think that a piece of my soul is still up there somewhere. We lucked out with the weather (there was a 60-70% chance of rain) as it stayed in the mid-70s and only started to rain right before we took a cable car back down the mountain to our bus.

My favorite part about the mountains was the 360 degree view of Lucerne you have. From the Lake to the hillsides to the surrounding peaks; everywhere you look, there is a drastically different view.

Once back at the bottom and in the city of Lucerne, we stopped a Bachmann’s for some real deal Swiss Chocolate (spoiler alert mom: you do have to share) before wandering more around the cobblestones streets.

We ended our day back in Engleberg where our group of six from Iowa made our way through the downtown area to find a restaurant that served fondue. Our expedition was successful and we had a great time bantering with our sarcastic, but incredibly patient and helpful waiter.

Next stop: Frankfurt, Germany via the Alsace Region of France.

 

European Vacation: Italy, Germany, Switzerland and a few places and lessons in-between

6.13.17

Munich, Germany // day four

Today was insanely busy (not as if any other day has involved less than 15,000 steps)! We started our morning with a later breakfast and then headed straight into Downtown Munich via public transportation. I have never ever seen such clean train stops! – Boston, take major note.

Once downtown, we met up with our local tour guide, Mancin. He was so fantastic and took us on a wonderful adventure through the city. Munich has such a rich history, albeit depressing during and after World War II, and it was fascinating to learn about and see it all in person. Most of the city was bombed and destroyed during the World War, but the city has spent the last 70 years rebuilding from the ground up to make everything just as it was before the war started. As Mancin stated – the only good thing that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party did was documenting everything about the city from layouts and structural plans to the color and patters of the buildings and cobblestone. Munich is still finishing it’s recreations, but the major buildings that stuck out were the old and new city halls which are located kiddy-corner to each other. With a limited budget, the rebuilt city hall is made of concrete instead of stone, and the stone work has been painted on as the original appeared.

Munich, and the rest of Germany, is home to a ton of great beer and we learned all about the six major breweries in the city. There are many beer houses, but the most memorable was part of the local city market. The beer garden in the market is required to serve each of the six brewery’s beers either 6 weeks of the year or until 40,000 liters of the beer has been sold – whichever comes first. We ate lunch a the market before heading to Dachau, and I had the best burger and potatoes ever.

Dachau was an extremely emotional, educational and eye-opening trip. There is so much history, and there are many stories that are frequently not talked about. While Dachau was not the largest Nazi Concentration Camp during World War II, when the Allies liberated the camp in 1945 there were roughly 60,000 prisoners. Writing on this blog post about this time in history will never do it justice, but feel free to reach out and ask me about the trip. Our tour of Dachau was about four hours long, which gives you a slight idea of how large of a space the prison is, and afterwards we all met back at our hotel to head out to dinner.

Our #BobbyandtheBiddies Iowa group decided to go find a local beer house to eat at and then wander around the streets of Munich. We consumed lots of traditional food and beer (or wine for those of us – me – who need gluten-free/Ally-friendly options), and had a wonderful time reflecting on the past four, busy, crazy and exciting days.

Tomorrow we head to the Swiss Alps (YAY MOUNTAINS!) before we end our trip in Frankfurt, Germany .

Note: Edits with pictures will be made once the internet allows me to upload them!

Edit: Pictures added

European Vacation: Italy, Germany, Switzerland and a few places and lessons in-between

6.12.17

Verona, Italy // Innsbruck, Austria // Munich, Germany // day three

Our third day in Europe involved us crossing a ton of European borders. We started our day checking out of our hotel in Venice, Italy. From Venice, we took a bus to Verona where high school me nerded out hard core about Romeo and Juliet as we were able to visit Juliet’s house. Fun fact: touching the breast of Juliet’s bronze statue is supposed to give you luck – I opted for more gelato and a few postcards to send to Mom and Dad. On our way into the city of Verona, we passed a colosseum that still hosts outdoor opera concerts, and there were giant hand statues that appeared to be a part of the set outside of the colosseum.

From Verona, we drove an hour and a half to Austria and specifically the city of Innsbruck; and watched the Sound of Music which introduced us to the great country of Austria. Innsbruck is the home to Swarvoski Crystals and they allowed us to tour their facilities for a while before venturing off to find strudel and other foods! Around Innsbruck are a ton of street performers, but we have learned to not engage with them as they unexpectedly ask for money after talking with you. Despite yesterdays gluten-free find for lunch, we scrounged for Ally-friendly food at a local grocery store where we found fruit and a salad and rounded out the meal with all-American McDonald fries.

From Innsbruck we traveled another three hours to Munich where we checked into our hotel and eventually traveled to the HB: Hofbrauhaus – Beer Garden. Here we enjoyed local music, city sights and good food/drinks before crashing for the night.

Tomorrow is filled with a local walking tour of Munich and a trip to the Duchau Concentration Camp.

Note: despite eight-plus hours on a bus, we covered three countries and my fitbit still tracked over 16,000 steps. #europe.

Edit: Pictures added

European Vacation: Italy, Germany, Switzerland and a few places and lessons in-between

6.11.17

Venice, Italy // day two

Today started out early with breakfast at our hotel and then a bus ride to the Venice Harbor Port. We took a boat from the harbor to San Marco where the St. Mark Basilica    is located along with the hundreds of small islands that make up all of Venice. We were given a tour of the area by a local guide, who showed us the ins and outs of the city via tight, winding streets and alleys. After our tour, we learned about the glassblowing process with a local company who makes so many incredible pieces (Laguna Murano, check ’em out!). Later in the morning, a large portion of our tour group had a gelato break before we went on a Gondola ride.

The six of us wrapped up our morning/afternoon with a late lunch at a local Italian restaurant where I found a gluten free pasta spaghetti and almost everyone else had pizza. This was a fantastic lunch where we were able to cool down and reflect on our day so far as well as plan the rest of our afternoon. Emily had found a video on Facebook a month back about an open air art instillation in Venice that we tracked down in the afternoon. We wandered our way to the Grand Canal where we found the art piece (shown below) and devoured more gelato and fresh fruit. Along this walk, we also bought masquerade masks which are a key feature in the Festival held every year in Venice.

Things we learned in Venice:

  1. People don’t move out of the way when you’re walking and going to bump into each other
  2. Streets and cobblestone are easy to trip on (changing our group hashtag to
    #WatchYourStep)
  3. You can’t cut across side streets – most will stop at a dead end and you have to back track anyways
  4. Just because a guy walks up and hands you a rose in the middle of St. Marks Square doesn’t mean that it’s free

Once back on the mainland, our group attended a Family Dinner Style wine tasting. We were given a tour of this family-run winery and they served us a fantastic pasta meal full of singing and laughter.

Edit: Pictures added

European Vacation: Italy, Germany, Switzerland and a few places and lessons in-between

6.10.17

Des Moines, IA to Atlanta, GA to Venice, Italy // The Adventure Begins

On June 9th, I started an incredible journey to Europe with 5 of my best friends. Every graduate’s dream? I support that.

I was fortunate to travel with my sister, Haley, across the United States and into the unknown land of Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. We arrived Saturday morning after a Disney Movie inspired red-eye flight from Atlanta (ps. please for the love of anything and everything fix your “free wifi”).

After making our way through customs, we continued our day by taking the bus into Venice proper from the hotel that our tour group is calling home for the next two days. A group of six of us wandered around Venice Proper; frequently getting “lost” or as what we liked to call it “earning our FitBit steps.” We walked across the glass bridge onto the countless islands that make up Venice. From there we winded our way through alleyways, along canals, and past many many churches.

We experienced many people trying to sell us selfie sticks, but also tasted our first Italian meals full of pasta, caprese, spritz drinks (the local favorite) and seafood. Later on, post showers and semi-naps, we all gathered as a tour group to review our week-long itinerary which involves some pretty awesome bucket-list items followed by closing down the local wine bars with fantastic Italian wines. Overall, today we learned that following a path doesn’t mean that you will be able to turn left and keep going – instead, frequently you will have to turn around and completely retrace your steps. We also learned that gelato is acceptable and any and every hour of the day (Get on board or get lost). Most importantly, we learned that traveling with your best friends is beyond a blessing, and meeting new friends along the way is an undeserved bonus.

Tomorrow we will go on an official tour of Venice with a local guide, treat ourselves to a Gondola ride, eat more gelato (with zero shame) and consume more delicious local wine. Until then, here are a few snapshots of our European Adventure with #BobartAndTheBiddies

 

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