Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Places I've Been

Traveling has given me experience and memories I could never get otherwise. I have learned new cultures, tasted new dishes, and have come to appreciate the differences and similarities that we all share. Traveling has opened my eyes to the world we share with people that are just living their lives, like us. I started doing trips, several years ago, after becoming an empty nester. And I love it! The states first. And the last two times have been to Europe. The Col. is stationed in Germany and we are taking full advantage of it. I stayed three months with him, from Oct. 2013 to Jan. 2014. I will be going back in a month and will stay another two months. 

I love Europe! The history is old and fascinating, the architecture is beautiful, and the food is divine! I love the fresh markets. Pastries, fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables. They know how to eat and be healthy! Cathedrals, churches, bell towers, and clocks are in every town, every country. They are all so unique. My favorite sites are cemeteries and graveyards. They are peaceful, serene, and beautiful!

I will give you an overview of each country I have visited. The Col. has seen much more. I don't think I will ever catch up!

Germany -- 
  • The people are very friendly.
  • The language is challenging. 
  • The food is delicious. My favorite dish - Garlic Soup! And the spread they put on sandwiches is to die for. I think it has cream cheese in it.
  • It is a very clean and beautiful country. No trash anywhere.
  • The people dress very modest. No tatoo's, no bulky jewelry. Refreshing!
  • They follow rules to a tee! And, they let you know if you aren't. 
  • They love to take holidays! And party! There is a festival for every occasion, every season, every chance they get. They just got through with Carnival and will soon be starting their Spring Festival's. I was there for Christmas and their Christmas Markets are so amazing. I had never seen anything like it before.
  • Ever heard of "linger longer"? Well, don't be in hurry for your waiter to bring you the bill when eating out. Germans love to linger, talk...and talk... and talk... and eat cakes and other desserts and drink coffee after a meal. You can be in a restaurant for a few hours! They are never in a hurry. Unless it's on the Autobahn! 
  • The people are very traditional. Soft spoken for the most part and very polite. 
  • There are hiking trails everywhere. And, yes... I bought me a hiking stick! It's hand carved out of wood and the top is a man's face with a bell on top of his hat. He reminds me of St. Nick!
My favorite big city in Germany is Berlin. They call it a mini Paris. It is very beautiful. There are so many interesting museums. The Wall (Iron Curtain) that divided the east from the west still has sections standing. My favorite catherdral in all of Europe is in Berlin. It has it's own graveyard in the basement, and the tower view of the city was amazing!

My favorite small town is Dinklesbulh. It is a quaint Medieval town, still surrounded by the original wall and towers. People live in houses that enter in through the old wall. It is so cool!

Czech Republic --
  • It's an interesting mixture of the old folks who were under the Russian rule, and the younger generation that has fully embraced Western culture. 
  • Most of the younger generation speak English and are very helpful and friendly.
  • The city is so beautiful! It has nooks and crannies, arches, secret passages, and cobblestone throughout. There is a pleasant surprise around every corner! 
  • My favorite place to eat was in Prague. An underground Medieval restaurant, complete with a seven course meal, belly dancers, and entertainers that sang and drummed.
  • You can still afford to shop there and it is fun! There is even a large outlet mall outside the city that is so American. So you get the old with the new. I love Prague! 
Italy --
  • My favorite country in Europe!
  • The people are aggressive and loud. But... oh so fun!
  • Can't understand a thing they say. They talk very fast, or it seems to me. 
  • They drive very fast!
  • They honk!
  • It is a very colorful country. 
  • The buildings are old, colorful, and pretty much run down. 
  • The northern landscape is breathtaking! Huge canyons and gorges. Tunnels. Mountains. Rolling hills of grapes that never end. Italy is so green and beautiful. 
  • The architecture is so old, worn, and simply beautiful!
Two things in Italy that are my all time favorite sites in Europe -- the Protestant Cemetery and the Catacombs. 

France --
  • The people are stuffy and unfriendly. As a tourist, I would strongly suggest learning some of the language. Otherwise, you won't get very far.
  • No smiles to be seen. Sad.
  • Paris is a large dirty city. It was my least favorite place to visit. The Col. and I spent Christmas there. They called it the city of lights. We wondered why? If they want to know what lights are, come to Vegas!
  • Moulin Rouge, the play, was over the top! I had to get used to the topless dancers. The costumes were colorful and stunning! The entertainment was the best I'd ever seen.
  • Climbing the Effiel Tower and cruising the Seine River were well worth it.
  • The pastry shops are divine!
Northern France... Normandy, was a much better experience. It is well worth making the trip to experience the sites and history of D-Day. Visiting the cemetery and beaches were a very humbling experience.  And, I loved the fishing town we stayed in. Trouville. The seafood was so fresh. Snails are quite the delicacy. I did not go there! The French countryside was just beautiful! Cows and sheep grazing in the fields. Cottages that I often dream living in. The roads were narrow and winding, up and down rolling hills. Just like a country side should be. Wonderful!

England --
  • The people were so refreshing to be around. English speaking! We didn't have to struggle to communicate with them.
  • Loved the chatter. Chatter everywhere! Happy chatter. Loud chatter. Lots of laughing.
  • Love the English accent. It sounds so proper. I have a friend who is from England. I could listen to her lovely and adoring accent all day long!
  • The people are friendly, helpful, and very layed back. I felt at home.
  • I was constantly aware of all the colors and styles of coats the women wore. I really wanted one!
  • Fish and Chips... so awesome!
  • London is full of energy and excitement. 
  • Loved the double decker buses, taxi's, post boxes, and telephone booths. 
  • The architecture was amazing!
  • I learned a new phrase... Mind Your Step! Used at every stop on the tube (Underground). You can't get it out of your head while there.
  • The Lion King, a broadway play, was very entertaining. I loved the costumes.
I loved England! My favorite place was the London Dungeons. An interactive history play that takes you deep into the dark places of London, starting with King Henry VIII. It was a thrill. I also loved the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge, as well as the river cruise on the Thames. We will be going back to England. So worth it!

Switzerland --

It was our route to get to Italy. We counted 60 tunnels going through Switzerland. We went through the longest tunnel in the world, I believe. It was 12 miles long. Amazing! 

Switzerland is a very beautiful country. I love the huge mountains. The roads hug cliffs, overlooking lakes and gorges. The site is spectacular! The Swiss people must have been very isolated from the world before they built roads. As we came upon a tunnel, we could see houses, barns, and churches right on top of the tunnel. Amazing! We are going to spend more time in Switzerland when I go back. 

Austria --

Another route to Italy. And, a very long tunnel. We couldn't read the language on a sign before entering the tunnel. We started through when all of a sudden the window fogged up and we couldn't see a thing. Both the Col. and I had our heads out the window trying to make our way through the dark. It's funny we didn't hit on-coming traffic! That was a very scary experience. Austria is very mountainous and beautiful. One of the prettiest castles we saw was just off the highway.

I have so many pictures, that I can't possibly share them all. But I did pick a few and combine them into collages. Hope you enjoy them!

I love castles. And I like the ruins of castles, even better! 

Above (left to right), Germany - Neuschewianstein Castle (this is the castle that Walt Disney patterned Cinderella's Castle after in Disneyland), Hehentwiel Fortress Ruins, Meersburg Castle, Obernammergau Castle, Austria Castle.

There's a church house... or two or three, or a cathedral in every town across Europe. Some are very elaborate, others are simple (that is, by European standard). They are usually seen in the center of the original town square. All the Christmas Markets were centered around the square.

My favorites: Cathedral in Berlin, Germany. It was not so over the top gold-laden and painted. It had warm woods and a beautiful staircase. I especially liked climbing to the top tower. The views of Berlin were spectacular! St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England. We went very early in the morning and had the grounds all to ourselves. It was heavenly and just beautiful with the early morning sun shinning on it. I especially enjoyed seeing all the smaller church houses out in the countryside as we drove to our varies destinations. They were all a beacon of light. Always with a clock on the tower and usually a bell tower. I just loved hearing the bells go off on the hour when we were somewhere near. Just heavenly!

Church houses (left to right) - St. Paul's Catherdral (where Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married). Milano, Italy Catherdral. Another view of St. Paul's Catherdral. The Vatican in Vatican City, Italy. A country church house. An angel statue on top of the tower - Cathedral in Berlin, Germany.

My all time favorite small town in Germany - Dinklesbulh. And Rothenburg. They are the old traditional Medieval towns. Surrounded by stone walls, towers, and a walk on top of the wall. Yes.... you can walk the entire city on top of the wall. The path dips under arches and has time worn, smooth pot holes along the way. There are towers and gun holes all around the wall. You can tell the old wall has been around for centuries. It is so cool! There are stairs to climb and views to take in. It is so spectacular. 

The door you see on the top left hand side lead to a house located just beyond the old stone wall. I met a nice woman coming out of her door. She walked with me for awhile telling me all about the town and a little of its history. I made a new friend that day!

Clocks are everywhere in the Czech Republic. They are all different and so neat to look at. The above clock is in a collection of Astronomical clocks on one of the many old towers in Prauge. The city itself is breathtaking. Beautiful buildings, cobblestone paths leading to secret out of the way places. I couldn't get enough of it!

The home you see, bottom left side, is a bed and breakfast we stayed in. The house has stayed in the family for generations. The old gentleman grew up with the Russian influence. He said it was a good day when the Czech Republic became independent. 

Italy - deserves to be spotlighted. Every single place we visited was so spectacular. If I had a second home, I would definitely choose Italy!

Cemeteries were at the top of my list! I just love them. Most of the time, they are located on church grounds. And the grounds are just beautiful! We were at a cemetery in Germany on October 30, the day before Halloween. There, the people who had lost loved ones, were taking care of the graves. Planting beautiful flowers and sprucing them up with simple decorations and mementos. It is a tradition on Halloween every year in Germany to pay respects to the dead.

The photo in the middle on the left side is an interesting cemetery. It is in Prague, Czech Republic. It is ancient. The headstones were just stuck in. Now they have sunk and formed a nitch for themselves. On top of one another. Tipped forward and backwards. Moss growing all over them. It is so cool!

My favorite is the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. The cemetery is located just outside the ancient wall of Rome. Christians could not be buried in Rome. Their bones were thrown over the wall, hence, the Protestant Cemetery was born. It is filled with the most beautiful statues and memorials. Most are famous poets and scholars. The site is breathtaking. I could have stayed there all day long! The weeping angel is my absolute favorite statue. I was so moved when I saw her. I can't get enough of angles since my daughter's life was taken a year ago. 

The Catacombs of Rome is another favorite. The feeling underground was hallowed. It is a story of Christians, underground secret worship, and faith that mean't everything to them. Even if it mean't death. It makes me feel so grateful for my Christian upbringing.

Cinque Terra. I love this place so much. The homes cling to the cliffs and lead straight into the sea. You have to park at the top of the town and walk down. There are about 5 towns that you can only access by foot or boat. We took a boat to another town and walked back on the boardwalk hugging the cliffs. It was so spectacular! I loved the boats parked outside of homes, rather than cars!

Taking care of bathroom needs was quite the experience! A hut with a hole. You squat and pull a hose down to spray yourself off. No toilet paper here!

Venice. I so love this place, too! It was so romantic. The only way to get to Venice is by boat. It's a city of old stone and rock in the Venetian Lagoon. Amazing! We were escorted around the city's canals by a gondola. The traditional flat bottomed boat used to get around for centuries. 

Florence. Amazing! It was fun browsing the shops along the cobble stone streets. The most remarkable thing...the bridge you see in the picture has houses built right on it. In the middle of the bridge are shops. I couldn't get over how the homes were supported. None other than a few boards!

Verona. So romantic! It is home to Romeo and Juliet. The balcony you see is Juliet's. And, yes! I stood there as my one true love spoke sweet nothings to me from below! Anyone can write a love note and attach it to the walls leading into the home she grew up in. 

The other really neat thing about Verona - It has the most amazing Colosseum. It is intact for the most part. You can walk around in it, on all levels. It was so neat! If you want to see the best, I'd skip the Colosseum in Rome and see this one. Much more friendly. No one to bother you. And you can walk in the arena, sit on the stairs, walk in the large hallways, and get lost in another time. Rome's Colosseum is in ruins. They charge to get in and most of it is roped off. Very little to see and experience. And, there are so many people, it's a nuisance to go to.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is incredible! Makes you wonder how it has withstood this position for centuries. There are a lot of stairs going to the top. But, we did it and it was worth it!


The Effiel Tower was cool! It was just our luck not to be able to go to the top. This was only the second time that it happened. Gale force winds closed the top of the tower down. We had to settle for the second level. 

Normandy - a trip well worth the time, money, and effort.

Just beautiful! Peaceful. Serene. The museums were very educational. The American cemetery was so well kept, crosses in a perfect row in every direction. Anywhere you stand, you see the crosses in a V. Incredible. The feeling of reverence was overwhelming and pervaded the entire scene. Walking the beaches and cemetery was humbling. My hubby has served in the Military over 30 years. His dad severed in World War II. My father served in the Korean War. It makes me so appreciative of what our veterans do in preserving our freedoms so tirelessly and unselfishly.

The map above shows the landing beaches. We were on Omaha Beach.

Trouville - the fishing town we stayed in. Normandy.

London - a great place to visit! When we were there, we happened upon a Red Carpet debut for The Wolf on Wall Street. Yes, we did see Leonardo DiCaprio! On the big screen. We couldn't get up close enough to see him in person. Wow! wouldn't you know. We travel half way across the world to see this! I had never seen anything like it here in the states, so that made it fun!

And no... I didn't watch the show, nor will I! 

Pictures above (starting at top, left to right). The London Eye, telephone booth, The Underground (tube) sign, Big Ben, Tower bridge, and old post box.

The Swiss Alps are breathtaking. We rode the gondola to the top and enjoyed the view for awhile. I couldn't believe how high we went!

The Col. and I. Thanks for all the lovely and memorable trips! Your'e my Number 1!

What countries have you been to? I'd love to hear!

Writing Prompt # 3: What countries have you traveled to?

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  1. Oh, Carol! You and I could definitely travel together! Castles, cathedrals, cemeteries. Yes. All the things I fell in love with in France. Your photos just make me want to book a flight right now!
    I am so happy for you that you will soon be headed to Germany. I'll be watching for the photos, and may have a million questions for you.
    Truly loved this post! Thanks for sharing. Safe travels!

  2. I live vicariously through you :) thanks for sharing.

  3. Looks like a wonderful trip Carol. As a teenager, I was an exchange student 4 times. I loved (and still do) traveling and learning languages. I went to Japan, Germany, and France twice on exchange. Thanks for sharing.

  4. You have been all the places I want to go!! The castles are calling me. I love your notes on each country, they are helpful. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  5. GAH! I want to GOOOO! Those pictures are amazing and I love how you highlighted the pros and cons of each trip!

  6. Carol, thanks for sharing! I enjoyed every word - and picture- of your post. I have heard from other visitors the same thoughts about Paris ...

    I think my favorite parts would be the cathedrals and cemeteries, tool

  7. Hello Carol, I was blog hopping when I saw the title of your post, and had to take a peek. As an English girl, currently living in Germany I was nodding my head to all you said about Germany - every one!! And having stayed in Prague just a few days, I agree with you there too. Loved the post, words and pictures.

    1. Theresa,

      I'm glad you came to visit my blog. And, I'm happy to hear I reported Germany as accurate as I could. Those were the things I observed and the experiences I had. Germany is a great place, isn't it! I don't know what took you there, but I hope you are loving it! And... hopefully you can see as many other countries as you can while there. I loved Prague. We are going back to spend some more time there. Just can't get enough of it!

      Come back and visit often!

      Do you have a blog? I'll see if I can find you. Have a great day!