Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Camping and a Castle in Beautiful Germany

Over Halloween weekend, we went camping with our friends, the Anderson's. We were originally looking to go "glamping," however there were no glamping sites within a reasonable drive for just two nights, so we roughed it for the weekend. The Andersons have two kids, and they were very excited to camp for the first time!

Amazingly, all six of us, along with all of our gear, fit into one vehicle with absolutely no room to spare! 

We drove for about two hours to a campsite near the town of Freiburg in the Black Forest.  We arrived a little bit before 5:00, but it gets dark pretty early around here in the cooler months, so we scrambled to get set up while we still had light!  We cooked our gourmet dinners in foil packets over the fire that evening, followed by fancy s'mores with Ashley's homemade marshmallows.  Yum!  It was pretty cold at night away from the fire.  Kyle and I were thankful for our cozy new sleeping bags!  (And I slept with a hot water bottle like an old lady!)

The stars were absolutely amazing!  We even saw several shooting stars!

Kyle did some "light painting" with his laser. Pretty cool!

In the morning we got the fire going again to cook our breakfast.  We had frittata cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven over the fire, and of course we had to have bacon!  We lucked out with our weather, too.  It was a gorgeous morning!

How does bacon smell even better being cooked at camp?

Looks like a very serious conversation between Avery and Gizmo.

Lovely views!

Removing the frittata was the tricky part!

Grayson going for his morning run

We spent the day walking around the beautiful university town of Freiburg.  It's a historic town that dates back to 1120.  The centerpiece of the town is a marktplaz with an impressive Gothic cathedral, the Freiburger Münster, dating back to the early 1200s.  There was an awesome market set up around the cathedral, so it was fun to check out all of the good looking food.  (I know, not your typical camping activity, but it was very nice!)  Freiburg is also Germany's warmest and sunniest city.

It's much more fun walking in the drainage ditch!

We spent the evening back at the campsite.  The campground is owned by a farm, so went over to check out the animals, and we got to see the cows being milked.

It was Halloween, so that evening the kids went trick-or-treating around the campfire and had dessert before dinner.  We had hot dogs, schupfnudeln (potato dumplings with bacon and sauerkraut), and apple crisp cooked over the fire.

We headed out the next day.  It took a while to load up the car with all of our stuff.  It was like fitting together pieces of a puzzle, but it fit!  We were all ready to get home and take a nice, long, hot shower!  (Grayson and Avery both had some marshmallow to wash out of their hair!)  We had a great time and hope to do some more camping in the spring.  We also wouldn't mind doing some glamping in the future, as well!

The following week, Kyle and I went to check out a castle that we've been meaning to see for a while. Schloss Sigmaringen is about an hour and twenty minutes from our house. It's a very pretty drive down country roads through the Schwäbische Alb; a low lying mountain range. The Schloss (or castle) dates back to the 1100s, though it has been added onto and restored throughout history. The castle was the home to the Hohenzollern family from 1535-1850. We walked around the cute little town at the base of the castle and took a castle tour. (No photos allowed inside.) Kyle got a new lens for his camera, so I played model while he practiced with it while we walked around that day.

While we didn't go on any big trips this October, you never have to drive far in Germany to find historically significant places and natural beauty.  It was nice to spend October enjoying and exploring nearby areas!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Visit from Kyle's Mom and a Birthday in France

Back in September, the Guynn family met up in England for a nice holiday and to meet our niece, Olive.  After spending some time in a beautiful cottage in the countryside, Kyle and I came home while his parents stayed on a bit longer in London to spend more time with the new grand baby.  From there, Kyle's dad flew home and his mom, Diane, came to spend a couple of weeks with us here in Germany.  We had a great time visiting quaint local towns, and we also took a trip to France!

On Diane's first full day here, we went to the world's largest pumpkin festival held at a palace not too far away, Schloss Ludwigsburg.  The fest is set up among the beautiful palace gardens.  The theme this year was "Royalty," so most of the displays went along with that theme.  While we were there we had a delicious lunch of maultaschen in pumpkin soup, pumpkin sekt (like German champagne), and pumpkin strudel.  It was a great day!

You're never too old to take a children's fairy tale boat ride!

Kyle had to work the next several days, so Diane and I did some sight seeing on our own.  We went to admire the beautifully preserved medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, about an hour and forty-five minutes away.  We also enjoyed the French and Italian import market in the nearby town of Tübingen.  These pictures that I snapped were just on the i phone, so they're not up to Kyle's snuff.



The market in Tübingen

The market in Tübingen

While Diane was here, Kyle had a four day break that just happened to coincide with his birthday! We decided to go to the Alsace-Lorraine region.  We've been to the Alsace several times, but we knew that Diane would love it.  We added a few new towns to the itinerary that we hadn't seen before, so we saw some new things as well.  Unfortunately our first day was pretty rainy.  We had planned to see Nancy, but instead stopped in the small town of Saverne.  It was pretty quiet since it was a rainy Sunday, but the rain held off just long enough to take a stroll through the pretty little town.

We stayed the night not far away at a maison, which is like a French B & B.  It was in a beautiful, old, but updated mansion just down the street from the grand Château de Lunéville.  It was raining pretty hard when we arrived, but we went to check out the palace and the town when it let up.  That evening we had Kyle's birthday dinner at the maison.  It was delicious, French home cooking.  Not too shabby!

The weather the next day was much better, and we headed to the beautiful Route du Vin, or wine road, in the Alsace region.  The wine road is a scenic drive in the valley between the French Vosges mountains and the German Black Forest.  You pass through little fairy tale towns scattered among the vineyards with castle ruins perched high up in the hills.  It was harvest time, so it was neat to see the vintners bringing the grapes into the wineries.

We started off stopping in two little towns that Kyle and I had not been to before: Kaysersberg and Eguisheim.  They were both so quaint and picturesque!



We stayed for two nights in the town center of the pretty village of Ribeauville.

View from our hotel room

The next day we started off in the picture-perfect village of Riquewihr.  (The whole town smelled like coconut macaroons!)  We then headed north along the wine route, enjoying the amazing scenery.

Not a bad place to enjoy morning coffee!

Coconut macaroons...so delicious!

Our next stop was the awesome castle Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg.  It's a beautifully restored medieval castle overlooking the valley. The first time Kyle and I tried to tour the castle, we were turned away because they were having a power outage; so we were glad that we actually got to tour the castle this time!

If you know Kyle, you know that he's a bird nerd.  Since it was his birthday trip, we went to visit a falconry place nearby that is situated within castle ruins.  It was fun to see all of the incredible birds of prey.  We also saw a show that showcased some of the skills of the birds.  A lot of the birds swooped REALLY close to our heads!  We also had a huge vulture walk right across and on our legs!  Not many people can claim that!

He's using a tool to crack open the "egg" to get to the goods.  Pretty smart!

Since it was such a nice day, we wondered around one more town before heading back to our village to have dinner and to rest our feet.

We took the scenic route through the Black Forest to get home. We stopped along the way in Triberg to see the waterfall.  We did a nice little hike, checked out some cuckoo clocks and of course we had to have some Black Forest cake!

On Diane's last day in Germany, we went to the Volksfest, which is Stuttgart's Oktoberfest.  The Volksfest is the second largest Oktoberfest in the world, and it is great!  We've heard from many that the tourists go to the fest in Munich, and the German's go to Stuttgart!  It was a fun and very German last day here for Diane!

A cute prize from the claw machine!

Believe it or not, those beers were the small size!

We were so glad to have Diane spend some time with us in Germany, especially for Kyle's birthday! We had a good mix of sight seeing and relaxing at home.  It's always nice to share some of the things that you always talk about with family and friends! We're always looking forward to our next visit!