Monday, March 5, 2012

Europe 2012 Week 1

I can't believe 2 weeks has already come and gone. I know I already posted a little bit about the trip, but I will do a little recap at the beginning of this post.
We did so much in 2 weeks. I am hoping I can remember everything, I meant to write down stuff as we went but I never did. 
Our trip began on February 15th and ended Friday March 2nd. 
We traveled through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom. Here is a MAP of the ground we covered.

On the 15th of February we spent the night in Houston, Texas

One of the many photos we took while waiting in a few airports. This one was at the beginning of our trip in Lubbock.

We arrived in Amsterdam, Netherlands on February 17th! 
Our friends, Kelly and Brady Briggs came and got us at the airport and we headed on our way to Germany.

We saw some "Texas" grafitti in Germany! Crazy!

On the way to Frankfurt, Germany we stopped in Cologne (Koln), Germany.

It's Germany's most visited landmark and is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. It has the second-tallest spire and largest façade of any church in the world. 

Frankfurt Temple
We spent a night at the Frankfurt Temple, I wish we would have time to do a session. We didn't see anything else in or around Frankfurt besides the temple and the local supermarket.

Heidelberg, Germany
I loved Heidelberg!! It was a very cute little town with awesome Heidelberrie ice cream! Ate some great Chinese food (I know Chinese food in Germany, but it was delicious) and we saw the Heidelberg Castle.

From Heidelberg we drove to Zurich, Switzerland, we got there in the evening, so the next morning on Sunday the 19th we got up and walked around to see the town. 

In the Swiss Alps around sunset, such a beautiful area. We took a break to stretch our legs, and some of us played in the snow.

Love this picture!

Mmm.....chocolate truffles!

Swiss chocolate is amazing! I would eat more candy bars if ours tasted as good as the Frey chocolate bars.

St. Gallen, Switzerland

Dave's family line comes from St. Gallen, so we made sure to stop and check out the place. He has decided he could move there, it was a very cute little town. The whole weekend we were seeing people dressed up in costumes celebrating something. Dave likes to think the big celebration was for him, but I believed they were celebrating Madri Gras. 

On the way to Neuschwanstein Castle we stopped at Lake Constance in Bregenz, Austria.

Neuschwanstein Castle
We spent the night in Füssen, Germany, the next morning on the 20th we got up and had breakfast that was included with our room. I kept asking David the night before what he thought would be breakfast. He kept replying a hard boiled egg. I was picturing maybe some sausages, I mean we were in Germany after all. 
Guess what was for breakfast?
A hard boiled egg!
There was also some slices of cheese, slices of meat, bread and fruit. 
That pretty much summed up all the breakfasts that were included with our hotels, some had yogurt and cereal too.

Here is a little history about the castle according to Wikipedia:

Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as a homage to Richard Wagner. Contrary to common belief, Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and extensive borrowing, not with Bavarian public funds.

The palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, but it was opened to the paying public immediately after his death in 1886. Since then over 60 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle. More than 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. The palace has appeared prominently in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle and later, similar structures.

I spent hours hiking to take this picture of the castle.....
hiking all those stairs to get to the gift shop so I could take a picture of a postcard of the castle in its glory. The castle was under construction on the outside while we were there, and it wasn't that clear of a sky.

Eagle's Nest (Hilter's Retreat)
After we saw the Neuschwanstein castle, we booked it to Berchtesgaden, Germany to make in time to see Adolf Hilter's retreat called the Eagle's Nest.
We got to the town around 4:30, hurried into an information center only to find out it is closed from October to May due to the ice and snow on the road up the mountain! Oops! Guess we should have doubled checked on that one. 
The town of Berchtesgaden is a beautiful town, I could see why someone would want a retreat around that area.
We had a lovely dinner in a restaurant by a lake, it was a good place to stop even without seeing the Eagle's Nest.

I got the traditional sauerkraut and bratwurst dinner, it was good!

I'm not gonna lie, Dave's bacon, fried onion pork chop was probably a little bit better then my dinner. It was delicious!

Munich, Germany
We got into Munich late, it was pretty dark so we didn't get to see too much until the next morning. We drove around and saw some of the sights on our way to Dachau, Germany. 
 We stayed at a place called the Easy Palace, it was a very classy hostel with a pizza vending machine. 

Dachau Concentration Camp

"Smoking Forbidden"

Christian Memorial

Jewish Memorial

Bridge to the Crematory 



Inside the "showers" room

Disinfecting chambers

Do Not Forget

On the way to Prague, Dave picked up one of these:
Oh German chocolate how I miss you already! This chocolate candy bar had corn flakes in it, it was like a Kit-Kat but ten times better!

Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a very, very beautiful place, I would recommend visiting it. I would also recommend to NOT drive in Prague. Take the tram or walk! Unless you want to get pulled over, take a breathalyzer test, get 2 tickets and pay 500 koruna (which is around 25 dollars) for each ticket. 
Let me explain, we got into Prague. Found a nice hotel, the evening was still young so we decided to go out on the town.
We got back in the car, and starting driving towards the center of town. Well the roads aren't clearly labeled, so when we went down a road that was apparently just for the tram (which there wasn't a sign anywhere saying it was just for the tram). As we came to end of the road there was a not very friendly lady cop waiting for us. She pulled us over, and didn't care that we were tourist cause in Prague you need an international driving license. She made Brady take a breathalyzer test, and told him that the fine was going to be 2000 koruna, but for him 500 koruna. After paying the fine and going on our way, we parked for a little bit, got out and walked around for like 10 minutes. We got back in the car and were driving to go back to the hotel and what happens? We got pulled over again! We got pulled over just across the street from where we got pulled over the first time. He told us the same thing, "Maximum fine was 2000 koruna, but for you 500 koruna."

The next morning we decided to take the tram instead of drive. I believe all of us were a little stressed out about doing something else wrong as we walked around. We were all relieved once we crossed the border back into Germany.

Brady waiting to pay his 1st ticket.

I bought this cheese at the Lidl Market to have with crackers later for a snack. It smelt TERRIBLE!! It was not as good as I had hoped it was going to be. It even made the whole car smell when I first opened it. I had to roll down my window to air out the car.

Figuring out where to go.

From Prague, we drove back into Germany to a town called Dresden and saw the Königstein Fortress. 
From Wikipedia: Königstein Fortress, the "Saxon Bastille", is a hilltop fortress near Dresden, in Saxon SwitzerlandGermany, above the town of Königstein on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltopfortifications in Europe and sits atop the table hill of the same name.
The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.
The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost touristattractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

Castle Church - Wittenburg, Germany
It has been called "the most famous building in Wittenberg", as the site where The Ninety-Five Theses were posted by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517, the act that has been called the start of the Protestant Reformation. We got there when it was dark so the pictures aren't too terrific. 

Berlin, Germany
I liked Berlin, there was much to see here and we didn't have time to see it all. We could have spent a lot more time there if we had time to spare.

This was a Russian memorial, there was a ceremony of some sorts going on. Dave recognize some as Russian Orthodox priests and could hear people talking in Russian as we passed by.

Brandenburg Bridge
This is where President Ronald Reagan gave the demand that, 
"Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate."

You can see parts of the Berlin Wall here, and you could pay to get your passport stamped by the fake military guy to the right.

This is the remaining Berlin wall, it is covered with paintings.

All of our hands on the wall.

We got to drive around Amsterdam with the Briggs for a bit before they dropped us off at the train station. They went on to Belgium and we stuck our luggage in a locker and walked around Amsterdam until our train left later that evening for Paris. Our camera died while we were walking around, some of these were taken with Dave's phone and our little point and shoot camera. Some are also taken while we were driving around with the Briggs.

These cars were small enough to drive down the bike lane.

There were bikes every where!! 
Some where turning to rust cause they had been sitting there so long. 

We spent a lot of time in this shop tasting all types of cheeses.

Wow, this is a long post!!
If you made it to the end I am glad you are interested in our travels.
 Stayed tuned for the 2nd week of trip!

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