For this trip we had a couple of tag along grandkids. They turned out to be really good travelers. They are quite a bit older now and have gone on some adventures on their own. Once that travel bug is in your blood, it has you for life. The kids were awesome and it was another great trip for all of us.
We were headed out to a few adventures in Germany and a couple of beautiful cities in Austria. Starting in Germany in our second home city of Nürnberg, we headed out to explore the town and find out if anything was going on.
Turns out that we were there during a festival in the city where they import a whole beach. No ocean but lounge chairs, walk up bars, volleyball and sand. All of this in the middle of a medieval city. It was a pretty cool surprise and with temperatures close to 100 Fahrenheit, it was a very welcome one.
We always enjoy our time in Nürnberg. We spend time with family and visit some our favorite hangouts. Nürnberg will be a whole separate page. On this trip our first day trip was going by train to the nearby city of Bamberg.
Bamberg is an amazingly beautiful city but the real draw to Bamberg is the history, and the smoked bier. You’ll find Bamberg where the Regnitz and Main rivers meet. Most of the city has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993, preserving structures from the 9th-17th centuries. If you arrive by train it’s a pleasant 1 mile walk over bridges and through the shopping district to get to the old town. This was another day of extreme heat so our first stop was for ice cream (Eis) and some of the smoked bier I mentioned.
We wanted to take a boat tour through the old town where most of the buildings were 500 years old. The tour ended up going through a couple of canal locks. That was something I had never done and it’s pretty fascinating! The tour lasted a little over an hour and took us past some beautifully preserved buildings. One resident was happy to be outside on her balcony greeting people cruising down the river.
One of the things I truly love about traveling is meeting kindred spirits. Doesn’t matter what language you speak or what nationality you are, sometimes you find people who are as excited and interested in something you are passionate about as you are. We were on a bridge in Bamberg when another photographer approached us and started a conversation about photography and the beautiful place we found ourselves in.
The conversation ended with him telling us where to pick up a key to a tower in the area where we could climb and get spectacular photos of the cityscape. Following his advice we picked up the key and climbed the stairs inside the 500 year old tower. Really old wood has a unique smell that you won’t find in the US. The structures here are just not old enough. There is a certain sense of awe I feel when I try to imagine how many people and ages these walls have been witness to. Needless to say, the view was not disappointing.
The townhall or Rathaus in Bamberg is another amazing site. Legend has it that the Bishop of Bamberg would not grant the citizens land to build a town hall so they created an artificial island on the river Regnitz and built their Rathaus there. The building was built between 1744-1756, it’s a pretty fascinating piece of architecture. The fresco’s on the side have a 3D aspect, if you look close you can see a cherub leg sticking out of the painting.
Coburg Germany is Stefan’s home town. We don’t really know anybody that still lives there but we like to visit when we can. Coburg is another beautiful city in Bavaria with strong connections to royal family’s in UK and Belgium among other countries in Europe. In 1920 Coburg became part of Bavaria. This turned out to be lucky for us because if it hadn’t merged with Bavaria there is a good chance the city would have been part of East Germany instead of West Germany after WW2 and the possibility of us ever meeting each other would have been extremely unlikely.
Stefan was born and lived in Coburg until he was 14 and Mickie visited for the first time when she was 18. Coburg hasn’t changed all that much through the years although they do have a Samba Festival every year that has gotten huge. Seems like an unlikely place for Samba but it draws people from all over Europe.
Coburg Castle or Veste Coburg is one of the largest and most fortified castles in Germany. Martin Luther hid from the Catholic Church in the fortress from April until October 1530. The fortress has a section called the Luther Rooms. A tour of the castle will also show you full suits of armour and some beautiful carriages. They have pretty strong warnings about touching anything as armour can become discolored by the oil on our fingers.
The castle is impressive and also has a nice bier garden. Stefan used to go sledding on the hill to the castle.
Last but not least, Coburg is famous for “Coburger Brats”. It is a well earned fame, these brats are some of the best tasting in Bavaria. They are one of the attractions that keep bringing us back to Coburg. They are a little bit strange looking, a longer sausage on a little bun, but they are delicious!
We really enjoyed showing the grandkids where Opa was from on this trip. We took them to see the elementary school that Stefan went to. It’s still an active elementary but it’s always looked more like a museum.
Next stop Neuschwanstein Castle. From the most fortified to the most famous. I don’t think anyone interested in traveling to Germany has not at least heard of Neuschwanstein Castle. It hosts over 1.4 million visitors a year, 6000 per day.
I love going off the beaten path in our travels but when it comes to the most iconic tourist attractions there are usually good reasons for their popularity. Neuschwanstein is no exception. It sits on it’s hill like scenery for one of Wagner’s plays that the builder of the castle Ludwig II loved so much. Beautiful and awe inspiring from every angle it was a construction planned to sit exactly where and how it does, almost like a set design.
This was the first structure in Europe known to have running water. The castle has some amazing innovations built in. It was rumored that Ludwig II was pretty reclusive and didn’t want to interact with servants during meals so he had a table installed that could be filled downstairs and raised up to the living quarters during meal time. The castle was never finished and nobody has ever actually lived there. Seven months after Ludwig’s death, the castle was opened up to the public for tourism. You can only see the inside of the castle on a guided tour and they don’t allow photographs but it is worth seeing. Book your tickets online way in advance, the tours fill up weeks ahead of time. They do offer tours in several languages, you can choose when you buy your tickets.
We stayed in the town of Hohwenschwangau at the bottom of the hill where the castle Ludwig II grew up in by the same name offers tours as well. Our room was in an old farmhouse turned Gasthaus just below Neuschwanstein. Our view from our balcony at night was incredible.
Wow! We’ve seen a lot on this trip but the page is called Germany and Austria so it’s time to go to Salzburg. When we arrived in Salzburg at the train station we were across the river from old town, where we were staying. We took a bus across the Salzach and decided to find something to eat and walk to our hotel which was in a pedestrian area next to a huge cathedral. We could see the cathedral from pretty much anywhere in the city so there was little chance of getting lost no matter how much we wandered.
Our traveling companions were becoming very comfortable with the European way of life. Lingering over excellent food and people watching was a big part of that.
After exploring a little bit on the left bank we headed to our hotel. Salzburg is very old. The celts settled the area around the fifth century and there has been a settlement there ever since. The Salzach river and the city of Salzburg have salt in the name for a reason. The presence of natural salt in the area is what and why the settlements and the city are found here. Salt was one of the worlds most valuable commodities in the days before refrigeration. Roman soldiers were even paid in salt, it’s where the word salary comes from.
The hotel we chose for our stay in Salzburg is one of the oldest, continually operating hotels in Europe. The building was a working hotel or inn 600 years ago. The Catholic Church played a major role in the establishment of Salzburg. Run by a succession of Prince-Bishops from the 8th century until Napoleon secularised the city in 1803 it was a source of power and wealth for the church. Many important leaders visited Salzburg in the early times, this explains the presence of hotels in the city for centuries.
A lot more recently, Salzburg has the distinction of being the birthplace of Mozart.
They are very proud of their native son and his presence is everywhere in the city. From street performers to little round foil wrapped chocolates called Mozart balls. A great source of amusement for our 14 year old grandson.
Salzburg is still a major center for classical music and opera. Every summer the five week long Salzburg Festival generates profits of around 30million Euro‘s and creates over 2800 full time jobs in the city. The city becomes a lot more expensive at this time with 183 million euro‘s injected into the local economy. If you are not visiting specifically for the festival you might want to choose a cheaper, less crowded time to come.
Another modern claim to fame for Salzburg is it‘s setting for the musical “The Sound of Music”. Based on a true story, many people will recognize parts of the city from the movie. The horse fountain is easily recognized and looks much larger in real life.
Mirabell Palace and gardens are both easily recognizable from the film. The palace is famous for being where the Prince-Bishops hid their mistresses, and the gardens are where Julie Andrews and the children sang DoReMe.
Salzburg is one of the wonderful, walking cities found all over Europe. A wonderful place to wander with a surprise around almost every corner. I know that people live and work here but when you you are in the heart of the city it seems like a giant fantasy land.
Our next destination in Austria turned out to be one of the most beautiful places we have ever been. It takes a train, a bus, and a boat to get there from Salzburg. We only gave ourselves one day in Hallstatt Austria, thinking that as small as the town is we would have plenty of time there. While the town is small, we were able to get through the majority of it in the time we had, we could have easily spent three days there and not gotten bored.
This place is truly enchanting, there is no other way to describe it. The setting really looks like something out of a fairy tale. The tiny town square consists of gingerbread like houses covered in vines that looked like they were placed there to show off the building at it’s most flattering angle. The cemetery is looks more like an exotic garden.
In fact, townspeople that elect to be buried in this cemetery only get to stay for about 10-15 years. After that they are exhumed. The skulls are decorated by family members and they are placed in the bone house to make room for the newly deceased.
We loved this little town with it’s traditional flat boats and life on the lake. Would love to go back someday but it is a little hard to get to and there are so many places to see!
This whole trip was a wonderful adventure for us and the two tag a longs. We created memories to last a lifetime for the kids and ourselves. This page doesn’t cover the whole trip, it never does. This kind of experience is impossible to capture 100% in words and pictures. You just have to get out there and do it! On to the next adventure!