Home of mustard and good wine
So very tasty!
Home of mustard and good wine
So very tasty!
Working our way west from Switzerland, we decided to stop for three nights in the capitol of Burgundy, Dijon. Our apartment was well located just off the main plaza in front of the Ducal Palace. We did o walking tour (heavy on the architecture, though a good way to get acquainted with the city), plus spent some time following a self-guided tour along the “Owl Route”. The tour was named after a carving of an owl found on a church, which apparently grants you wishes if you rub it with your left hand. A quick empirical test seemed to dispel these claims. Overall though, the city was quaint and had some interesting historical buildings and was a good place to stay for three nights.
It was good to be back in France from a culinary perspective. Our very first (and affordable, compared to Switzerland) lunch started off with appetizers of salmon terrine and escargots. Even our supermarket-based meals were outstanding (pork rillette, local mustard, oozy reblochon cheese).
Given that we were in the heart of Burgundy, we decided to take a wine tasting tour to the nearby city of Beaune. It was a small tour: just us, a couple of older Swiss ladies and the guide. It was interesting to get a little more context about the Burgundy region and its wines. One of the highlights was a stop at the vineyard famous for the world’s most expensive wines – something like €5000 per bottle – and you’re required to purchase a bottle as part of a case containing 11 other wines. The tour was interesting and we tried some good wines, though I’ll be happy to stick with tasty Northwest-style ales.
Nestled next to an alpine lake and surrounded by Swiss Alps, Lucerne is right up there with the most scenic cities of our trip. With three full days and a comfy apartment, we didn’t actually end up doing a lot while we were in Lucern. The first couple of days were spent checking out the town, including the 30-minute walk from our apartment along the shores of Lake Lucern to the city center. We took a reasonably informative walking tour offered by the Tourist Information office and spent some time checking out the remaining portions of the city wall. On our final day, we debated a day trip to Zurich, but instead paid a visit to the Swiss Museum of Transport, which was quite huge and comprehensive. The downside was that tickets were $30 each, but it turns out that Switzerland is fairly expensive. Don’t get me started on the $85 lunch we had one day (though it was tasty!).
Getting to Rothenburg was interesting because we made our first travel mistake: I made us get on the wrong train! Turns out it was on the right platform and going to the right station (that’s what confused me), just a bit earlier than our intended train. It arrived at the next station later than we had planned, which threw off our timing, resulting in us getting into Rothenburg later than expected.
Rothenburg itself was an amazingly quaint medieval town. We were staying in a hotel in the heart of the old town and spent our two days there exploring the city and its surroundings. On the first full day, we headed out to the gardens where the old castle once stood and worked our way north to a spot where we could climb up into the old city wall. The city wall was impressive and we were able to walk around two-thirds of the city, getting some interesting perspectives. Also, the city walls had various stone signs embedded in them mentioning donors who contributed to their restoration after WWII as well as other notable events, such as the filming of a movie here in the 60’s.
On the second full day, we headed outside the city walls and down through some scenic vineyards down to the old double bridge that spans the Tauber River (more of a creek). After heading back into town, we decided to climb the rathaus (city hall) tower. There were some good views from the top, but it was an extremely tight, vertigo-inducing space. Finally that night, we took in the Night Watchman tour, which was entertaining. Amazingly, it seems this guy has been giving the tour for twenty years now, though I suspect it’s fairly lucrative given the crowd of ~100 people at €7 per person. I wonder if Seattle needs a night watchman?
Former castle site
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Quaint medieval town
The Night Watchman’s tour
A lucrative profession –
At least nowadays
At Schönburg Castle –
It’s sort of like a cruise ship
But perched on a hill
Accents are tricky –
The garden does not have snacks
But it does have snakes
One issue you might see on an extended trip is that significant dates come up while you’re traveling. In our case, it was our 11th anniversary (June 16) and Donna’s birthday (June 20). So, since we were in Europe, why not celebrate in a castle along the Rhine? That’s how we ended up in Schönburg Castle for two nights. The fact that we were there conveniently between the two significant dates was more a function of the castle’s availability rather than our intentional planning.
Things started off a bit unglamorously. Google Maps told us there was a reasonably short walking route from the train station to the castle, so we decided to give it a try (this is our usual M.O. when arriving in a location). However, it turns out that the path involved a “nature trail” going up the hill – it worked out OK in the end, but I would have been a little embarrassed to come across any hikers while hauling my luggage up the trail 🙂
We had a wonderful (anniversary) dinner our first night and spent the next day exploring the castle and surrounding gardens. It was all very scenic and we lounged about reading and playing a few games of chess on the giant chessboard. The second evening’s (birthday) dinner was really good as well – nothing like outdoor dining on the castle’s terrace to whet the appetite!
On our final morning before checking out, we explored the castle’s tower museum. There were some good views from the top plus they had an interactive trebuchet wired up to a trebuchet-simulator video game. Pretty nifty! When it was time to leave, we took a cab instead of the trail back to the station. This was significant since it was our first taxi ride of the trip!
Finally, I won’t go into it here, but I have an additional anecdote whereby I freak out the castle staff and make Donna cry during our anniversary dinner – feel free to message me for the full story!
For our first stop in Germany, we chose the small town of Weimar. It’s a reasonable train trip from Prague and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its cultural significance. In a nutshell, it’s famous as the home town of Goethe, the city where the Weimar Republic came to life and the birthplace of the Bauhaus school of design. Three nights was good to get a feel of the city and its history.
One of the first places we saw was the Weimar House, which turned out to be a funky, amusement park-like multimedia experience that detailed the history of Weimar from prehistoric times to the early 19th century. One of the key bits of info I took away from the experience was the origin of the name of the region Thüringia – the early inhabitants of the area were worshipers of Thor. Anyway, I was surprised that the story didn’t continue up to the present time, but maybe that was because the experience was narrated by Goethe 🙂
Speaking of Goethe, Weimar is Goethe crazy! He was the main figure behind the Weimar Classical period and a huge contributor to German culture. He had many friends and and fellow intellectuals in Weimar, most notably his BFF, Schiller. There’s a huge statue of the two of them together in front of the National Theater building. Almost everywhere you go, there’s some kind of connection to Goethe and Schiller, Schiller and Goethe. The emphasis on their friendship was beginning to seem over the top to me, but it turns out I’m not the only one to feel that way – we saw some local graffiti speculating along the same lines (BTW, do not look at these images if you’re easily offended: mild graffiti and one titled “A Poem“).
To take a break from Classical Weimar, we also checked out the Bauhaus museum. This was really quite interesting and informative. The Bauhaus design school was formed in Weimar in the early twentieth century and has had a major influence on what we consider modern design. I enjoyed learning more about the philosophy behind the school and its history (which was unfortunately somewhat rocky, maybe to be expected given the events in Europe during the 20th century).
To round out the visit, we enjoyed some fine German food and drink. In addition to easy, authentic German food, there were also local specialties such as Kloße and Thüringen bratwurst. For a small town, there were a lot of stands selling hot-off-the-grill bratwurst. And of course, there were many varieties of local pils for washing it all down. If this is any indicator of what to expect across Germany, I’m definitely going to enjoy our next two stops!
Finally, the visit happened to coincide with our 11th anniversary. However, to properly celebrate, we’ve booked a couple of nights at a castle along the Rhine – should be romantic (so long as the Franks don’t attack)!
Oh yeah, we also saw at least five Weimaraners during our stay in Weimar.
Jeff and I wondered –
Anniversary plans here?
Let’s skip Buchenwald
Goethe und Schiller
18th century bromance
Ahead of their time
Weimar’s Bauhaus school
Birthplace of modern design
IKEA says ,”Thanks!”