Last Stop in Baden-Baden

IMG-0634
Baden-Baden, Germany. January 2020.

With our final holiday stop and a two and a half-hour drive each way, Ryan made a new rule: you must stay wherever you are going for at least as long as it takes you to get there. Normally, I would push for the roundtrip timing, but sometimes this is unreasonable for where you are going and Baden-Baden when you aren’t here for a spa day, was that for us. With probably our shortest one-market stop, we spent about 3 hours here which included two runs around the market and a 20-minute excursion around the nearby park.

Baden-Baden is a UNESCO world heritage spot as one of Europe’s top Spa locations which means over the course of the summer it becomes impacted with all of the tourists and locals flooding in. In contrast, the holiday season – at least in the post-New Year’s stages – is apparently a low season.

This market is small with only around 100 booths but it is strangely misleadingly large and small at the same time. When you first step out into the market – if you manage the parking maze beneath it but more on that later – the whole thing seems huge! You look right and left and the market looks like it goes forever in either direction and then you spot some cabins across the way with some lights and the potential for more grows.

If you go left, you hit a dozen or so booths with gluhwein and some traditional food as well as the regular festive wares; when you hit the merry-go-round you also hit the shopping district so you can choose to get lost in there or turn back. When you cross back to the right, you find the truely deceptive block. The way in is three long lines and alleyways of back to back booths with the biggest clusters of food and drinks booths that I have seen, especially for a market this size. Even though it doesn’t look like it, this is actually the majority of the market booths. At the point where this labyrinth of booths looks like it swings left into more maze-ways, it actually simplifies into a small circular ring surrounding a closed off and empty square of lawn.

There is a singular, straight path that crossed the lawn and this is one of the market’s most interesting features. this path is adorned on both sides by false-stain glass windows all drawn and painted by local school children with the sponsorship of local companies, both big and small.  These depict all sorts of pastoral and religious imagery mostly focusing on Christmas.

Beyond this path and separated by a small strip of lawn you will find the second really interesting feature: The Trinkhalle. This is a beautiful brick building with an open collum lined hall that displays around 20 different nativity designs. This looks somewhere between a competition and an exhibition but most of the pieces (at least the ones I was drawn towards) were completed by a single artist: Sonia Demetz.

The third special element is this town is so proud of its history. There are signs throughout the market giving details about the local site and monuments you shouldn’t miss while visiting. Even knowing that most visitors to the markets are really there for one reason – we’ve had enough hotels and locals direct us to them without us asking – yet, they want you to leave knowing more than the 100 booths. To get more information without having to wander too far, you can go through the doors in the middle of the Trinkhalle venue and read all about why the city has UNESCO status. Most people only wander in because it looks like it has a toilet (it’s why we did and it’s a private toilet) but once inside, you should give yourself the time to stop and delve into the history this town is so proud of.

Like I have said in the past, each town we visit has something special – it’s own charm, a market theme, an atmosphere, or a tradition that makes them stand (at least a little) apart from the rest. These elements were so understated – displayed and yet set back – but they really made the impression that this celebration was about being here, being local, and how proud the community is to celebrate in this way.

We took a quick walk to see what the cabins across the way were and ended up taking a small excursion through the first bit of Lichtenraler Allee Park. When researching, I found two addresses for the market and the park was one of them so we didn’t know if there was an extension or a second market here. There is (what we decided to call) a quarter market. Really it is one booth selling drinks and food, an icerink (with real ice this time), and portable toilets. My advice: unless you are desperate to ice skate, stick to the actual market.

The last thing I have to say is don’t get lost! The neighborhoods are very windy and locals drive through them like bats flying out of hell which is concerning if you aren’t used to hairpin turns. If you find yourself in one of these neighborhoods, they do seem to loop around but take your time and get out safe even if not quickly. The parking beneath the market is convenient for your visit but not for parking so again, in Baden-Baden, it’s all about taking your time. This is the strangest parking lot I have ever seen because all of the spots and lanes go in the same direction. If you turn down one of the 8 different lanes thinking there is a spot but you don’t fit, you have too loop around the whole lot and start again. As always, the earlier you get here the better your options!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Last Stop in Baden-Baden

History in the Mosque-Cathedral

DSC_7291
Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain. July 2019.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, Córdoba is a world of living history pained layer on layer across the city, and nowhere is this more evident as in The Mosque-Cathedral.

Known by many names, including the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita, the Mosque-Cathedral has undergone expansions and survived culture shifts and regime changes which make it a completely unique site unlike any you will see elsewhere in the world. While there are multiple ways to tour this site and 3 distinct areas, to see the interior of the building I suggest booking through Get Your Guide for a person-led tour. The guides were amazing, used technology so you could hear everything without disruption, and the pace and timing were phenomenal. 

We didn’t end up taking the time and touring the bell tower (we had climbed enough!) but if you have the time and inclination it is there to see for a small price. The courtyard, however, is open to view for free and a nice place to wander through and relax if you are in this part of town.

Originally, Córdoba was a Roman city and there are features within the Mosque that show that storied history. First and foremost, there is a spot near the entrance where you can see the building Roman foundations below the floor. More interesting by far, however, are the ‘borrowed’ columns that do not match each other supporting this first section of the site. This is the section our Guide called the ‘Greenest holy building in the world’ – the leader who originally called for the mosque’s construction wanted things done quickly and efficiently which meant borrowing material from building from the surrounding area. This is especially funny not only due to the mismatched colors and materials, but the fact that these columns were different heights – if you look at the bottoms between the pillars the bases are different heights to make up the difference (much easier than building from scratch).

Before we get into the other interesting features, let’s see the rest of the history and why the name Mosque-Cathedral is so relevant. After the Romans, Cordoba fell under Islamic rule which saw a few reigns and a large expansion project, followed by the Holy Roman Empire who converted the Mosque and added a chapel in the middle and well as surrounding alcoves of the now church, and then after another change over and for the final expansion, it once again became a mosque.

The craziest bit of this history is that no matter when or how it changed hands, the structures were never torn down, but adapted. The different designs literally inspired the next owners down the line! If you like art history, you can walk through this space and see Roman architecture melded with Middle Eastern paintings, tile mosaics and arch styles; walk a little further and the central temple brings you to a combination of Renaissance and Baroque styles. You can literally run the gauntlet!

But a few more fun facts:

1.  If you weren’t already impressed by the intertwining of cultures and religions you see in the Mosque-Cathedral, there are two more pieces that show the admiration and kinship found here in Córdoba. During the second expansion, the Mosque needed to remake the holy prayer wall on the furthest section of the mosque and as a sign of kinship, the pope sent Christian artists to create the beautiful tiles prayer wall. Then when building the center chapel, the ruler was so inspired by the architecture and style of the mosque that he hired Islamic architects to help design and merge the old and new buildings.

2. The double arches in the first parts of the site are made of alternating plaster and brick which were created less for their beauty and more as a mathematically designed to create a lasting support structure. This design continued into the second expansion, however, if you walk to the furthest section from the door you will see the designed continued for purely aesthetic reasons. This last expansion was done very quickly and much later so to speed the process, the ruler decided to skip the brick and simply paint them onto the double arches once they were completed.

And finally, my “it must be mentioned” section:

No matter what creed you come from, remember this is a multi-cultural and multi-religious space. No one is going to stop you from taking pictures or having a chat or taking selfies, but still, have respect. Don’t touch or break things you are meant to be touching and don’t cross barriers. This site has held strong for hundreds and hundreds of years and change and we shouldn’t let modern hands and sensibilities ruin that.

Thank you!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

History in the Mosque-Cathedral

Beautiful Córdoba

img_6906.jpg

Córdoba, Córdoba, Córdoba!

I adore Córdoba and exploring its varied streets. This city really doesn’t feel like anywhere else I have ever been and I feel like I finally hit my Spanish stride here.

Córdoba is a city that has been through so much history and that history is painted over its every surface. From the Romanesque ruins to Islamic arches to its smaller sights like the wall gardens of the famous Patios, small and large histories and traditions reign supreme. Nowhere is this history more pronounced than the cities largest draw: The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, aka the Great Mosque of Córdoba or the Mezquita, but that is the topic for next time!

Beyond the Mosque-Cathedral, there is so much to explore in this amazing city that at times it really felt like we kept moving through smaller towns that had somehow melded together to create an interesting tapestry of mixed religions traditions and cultures. In fact, this mixing of cultures is probably what Córdoba is most proud about and they let you know it – probably more often and more enthusiastically than anyone ever needed.

If you decide to go to Calahorra tower – which from the outside, I do recommend – you will hear about the Cathedral and the long history of Córdoba being conquered by people of different religions and it’s Roman beginnings about 100 times, four or five of which will be relayed to you by some fairly creepy, life-sized animatronics. Yes, it is repetitive and at times condescending and, if you are going to have a tour through the Mezquita, totally overpriced and unnecessary as you will learn all this history and really be able to see its layers inside of the Mosque. Honestly, the best part of the Calahorra tower is the view from the top and even then I enjoyed the view of the tower from the other side of the bridge much more.

We had bad timing which meant we missed out on seeing The Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs because it ended up being closed and we saved it for our last day here but from everything I have heard this is not-to-be-missed! Which stinks cause we definitely did…. but if this is the case for you as well: first, there is a lot more to see in this epic city; and second, if you like the history aspect (it should always be a yes in Cordoba), you can still read the history in the front of the Alcazar. But, on second thought, check your open and close days because you will seriously want to see the gardens if nothing else here!

We were joined by Corinne’s friend here and as someone living in Spain for the last few years, she had a much better handle on the whole “how to spend your siesta” time, and if a properly spent, truly relaxing siesta doesn’t make you feel like you are traveling correctly, nothing will. We were able to go out and wander and then find a lovely outdoor restaurant to park ourselves with real, authentic tapas selections and Tinto de Verano. So yea, we found our Spanish stride sitting and chatting for hours!

And then we stumbled into the lovely little shop Azahar. The owner is awesome and we had the best time chatting. She sells super cute jewelry in a local shop made out of local materials by a local company. My ears weren’t even pierced and yet both Corinne and I walked out with the cutest earrings and no regrets – and now my ears are pierced.

Basically, I could and would happily do another weekend just re-exploring the amazing city of Córdoba.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Beautiful Córdoba

sLOVEnia: a love story – and Itinerary

DSC_6232
National Flag of Slovenia. Bled Castle, Lake Bled, Slovenia. April 2019.

April 2019 marked Ryan and my first wedding anniversary and as a matter of fate – or an accidental misreading and scratching of my scratch map (Slovenia isn’t the same place as Switzerland, so bad to scratch it off prematurely!) – our amazing trip to beautiful Slovenia.

Also known as the ‘New Zealand of Europe’ because of it’s rich natural beauties, this country is larger than I expected when looking at my map. We took a 4 day weekend (but with a day of driving in and out from our home in Germany, it was really three days) and hit more than most would in that time, but we still barely scratched the surface.

So, why Slovenia, a love story?

Easy: we fell absolutely in love with the country.

We walked so much. We climbed so many mountains. It rained off and on as April really anywhere is want to do, so we were almost always damp. We ate so much. We took so many pictures and way too many lovey-dovey selfies. It was simply amazing and we were definitely not ready to come home at the end of the weekend.

But Slovenia also advertises the word sLOVEnia in every tourist shop and information center and brochure. It basically breaks down into Love in Slovenia or falling in Love in Slovenia. Some people think this is a terrible tagline for a country but for Ryan and me, Love in Slovenia is simply a matter of fact and a cute, quaint way of phrasing our own experience there.

Slovenia is nestled between Austria, Italy, Hungary, and Croatia and the entire country is made up of mountain chains and valleys with rivers that flood towns regularly. Historically (and at times, even today), this made travel difficult so both linguistically and socially, the Solvenia you experience can be different depending on where you go inside of it. These differences are subtle, so subtle that only a local may realize it, but as it was explained to us, the closer you get to the border countries the more you will see and hear their cultural and linguistic influences.

Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down our trips in more detail, but for anyone looking for 3 or 4 days in the middle and northern parts of Slovenia, here’s our basic itinerary:

Day 1:  Leave Germany early, drive through Austria and into Slovenia. Get to Kamnik and stroll for a few hours for a late lunch. Head to Ljubljana and take a quick tour of the castle – be prepared for a hike!

Day 2: Viator half day tour to Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle. Explore more of Ljubljana.

Day 3: Any last bits of Ljubljana. Drive to Skofja Loka and explore trails and museum. Drive to Lake Bled for the castle and/or church on the lake.

Day 4: Finish Lake Bled (if open, you should definitely hit Vintgar Gorge but it was closed until May). Head home.

Would I make one or two changes? Maybe, if I’d known about the Gorge’s closure, but not enough to write it here. But maybe I’ll write an alternative itinerary after telling you our stories in this beautiful country.

This is Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

 

 

sLOVEnia: a love story – and Itinerary

Half a Day in Wurzburg

IMG_4877

Wurzburg Palace and Gardens. January 2019.

Two friends and I really needed to hit an athletics store that would sell swimsuits year round (because of course we did) and, since the closest store is about an hour away, we decided to throw a little extra fun into the trip. This felt especially urgent to one of the companions who simply couldn’t understand how neither of us had ever visited this cute little stop in Germany. She had no choice but to correct this problem and I love that she did!

We didn’t have much time out because of school timing, but we decided that we could very easily accomplish The Wurzburg Palace to help make the trip worthwhile. And the palace was so worth it.

Parking at the palace is a little weird but the rates are really good. The weird part about the parking lot is that while it is within a city and therefore meant to house a lot of cars, it’s also a huge part of the square in front of the palace gates which has a statue at the top with no directional lines of how to drive through the square or really where to park. it was the weirdest thing having to avoid pedestrians and drive through the open center when the closest side was full.

If you are an English speaker, especially if you have a sense of humor, take the tour even if you have to wait a little while. In that time, you can wander around the gardens or the palace itself – you don’t need to do the tour in order to see the whole palace but it helps to get all the fun information.

We all loved our guide. He was very sassy and made a lot of jokes at every countries expense – there were a whole lot of American jokes to be made thanks to the world fresco – but he was very tactful and read our group well enough to hit all the right notes. It can be difficult to do so I was impressed. He also wasn’t shy about sharing his knowledge beyond what was in the palace; our guide thought it was hilarious that he traveled all the way New York only to discover pieces from “his palace” sitting in the exhibits of the MET!

The art featured and that makes up this palace is magnificent. The stucco work is world class and I implore you to listen to everything your guide has to say about the White Room – I liked our guide’s suggestion that if you wanted to sit in that room for longer with kids, you should have them play Count the Dragons. There are so many interwoven all in beautiful white stucco and I could cry thinking about how the whole room was done by hand, each section had to be done very precisely but quickly to not let the stucco dry before you were done shaping the pieces.

The frescos are also amazing but you have to pay attention to all the details. Spoilers: skip to the next photograph if you don’t want to know: the ostrich, in particular, in the Americas’ fresco above the stairs is the scariest thing I have ever seen. The animals can be scary enough when angry so I would hate to see what they could do with the legs they have in the painting!

Every room and piece of art have so many tiny details from painting appearing to jump out of the frames and others that actually do. But there are also details like fabric drapings that aren’t even fabric! These designers and artisans were brilliant. As someone who has studied art, I was blown away completely.

The funniest pieces for our group to discuss were probably the chandeliers. You aren’t likely to see chandeliers like this in any period film – generally, you see gold and some glass but nothing like in Wurzburg. If you wanted to show your wealth in this time, you bought Venetian glass and for a little extra, colored glass that was blown and shaped. These were definitely of the time and we delighted ourselves debating which were the ugliest (by today’s standards of course) and which ones we thought would cost more – we were always very wrong.

Plus there’s a pretty cool fact: these chandeliers were moved across Germany in butter! Yes, butter from the kitchen because soft enough not to break the Venetian glass but sturdy enough that it can handle shaking when being transported across country roads without modern shock absorbers.

The end of the official tour isn’t the end of what you can see in the palace so don’t run off just because the guide leaves you! You can still walk through the women’s quarters and you absolutely should. When entering this wing, you should ask about the differences time has made on the wallpaper of the first room and the techniques they used. It is already beautiful aged but it would have been striking in its day – it was all of our favorite room.

There is also an art gallery which is included in the ticket price. it’s all pretty normal fare but I laughed at how many pieces I recognize.

This was right at the beginning of the new year, so we took a quick walk around the gardens which are free to see but I can only imagine how beautiful they would be now that it is Spring or later in the summer and the foliage fills out.


After the palace, we ended up finding an amazing vegan and vegetarian restaurant, Burgerheart Wurzburg (one of my companions is vegetarian so we were loooking for interesting food that she could have too) to grab a bite at and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Every this was amazing but definitely ask which burgers are made in house – there is at least one that isn’t and if you are hitting a trendy vegan place, why’d you want to buy something that was frozen and shipped?

Then we were off on our shopping trip.

If I had been able to spend the whole day, I would have loved to climb up to the fortress. Apparently, this is a fairly quick hike but it is cool and has great views.

Who knows, now that the garden should be in bloom and Ryan is getting more used to traveling with me, we can hit the palace again and add in the fortress. I will never knock second visits to truly magnificent places!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Half a Day in Wurzburg

Historic Fort Riley

DSC_7360
Fort Riley, Kansas. July 2017.

I will be honest, as much time as we spent at Fort Riley, I didn’t spend all that much time exploring. Since this is where Ryan lives, we ended up going to many more of his local haunts than exploring sites I can tell you all about. That said, there are cool things about army bases for history-loving folk which is worth getting a day pass if you are able.

I grew up on road trips with my family visiting old cemeteries, usually near old churches or battlegrounds, and my younger sister and I became obsessed with these visits. We would search for names that were funny or similar, the youngest or oldest person, or the coolest or oldest tombstones we could wander across. To some, graveyards are scary, but I have been to so many, so many places and so many kinds.

This is one reason, Ryan took me to the Graveyard at Fort Riley. While graveyards are fascinating in and of themselves, there was something different about being here. Military graves, like military lines, have clear formations – anyone who has driven past one of the larger ones can tell a military grave-site from a great distance for this reason. Despite this, there were clear sections and you could easily see when  time breaks happened. There were also much more variation in the stones which I hadn’t expected – I’m used to the sites where all the stones match except for the writing and symbols engraved on them.

It was also very different walking along the graves of soldiers with a soldier. We tried not to get morbid about it (and for the most part we succeeded), but he was able to tell me what some of the medallions and engravings stood for as well as some of the history of the base and area which explained some of the deaths.

After the graveyard, we drove down to the U.S. Calvary Museum. While we only toured the courtyard and looked at the vehicles on display there, I enjoyed this stop as well. One thing that killed us – I physically had to move Ryan out of the area – was a family who had their kids up in one of the army jeeps for photos. There are signs everywhere and you really do not want to get in trouble on an army base, so please, for the love of all that is holy, do not climb on the vehicles!

Army bases are old and full of changes that have shifted in look and style throughout time that you can see as you wander through an old base, and it really is an amazing thing to see. I really enjoyed my tour through the grounds and, if you get the chance, I suggest you wander as well.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Historic Fort Riley

London calling…

For a little bit longer.

IMG_5016
The Battle of Britain War Memorial. Capel-le-Ferne, Engalnd. June 2015.

So here comes the end of the June 2015 Travel Saga with the last few stops on our strange whirlwind World War II tour: London.

While we did the regular stops when passing through London—the theatre and strolling through the city—we had three final stops which we couldn’t pass up: The Battle of Britain War Memorial, Duxford with a stop in Cambridge and a day in Bletchley Park.

Each of these trips were scheduled as day trips and in panning your days, I would recommend taking the whole day to explore each of the sites as well as the surrounding areas—they each really have enough to do that and you’ll want the whole time!

*************

Our day out was exploring the Battle of Britain War Museum

If you are out this way and a fan of history, it is a stop you can’t miss. Besides the great views—you can see the Cliffs of Dover from the outcropping as well as visit them if you have the time—and WWII vehicles you can look at around the grounds, the new Interactive Wing, and Scramble Experience really makes the visit.

The cliffs from Memorial. Capel-le-Ferne, Engalnd. June 2015.
The cliffs from Memorial. Capel-le-Ferne, Engalnd. June 2015.

There are interactive games, activities, and read along screens around the room which makes this a great learning stop for all ages and plays a great show covering the battle. It’s recommended you watch this twice to get everything and they happen regularly enough that it’s not off putting. I’d recommend hanging out at the main table to get a great a real view of each side.

There’s also an area in the back where you can try on bomber jackets and officer coats—sneak in a few pictures—though this is really meant for children so sizes are pretty limited.

With everything you can watch/read/do within this building, it’s easy to lose track of time which is another reason I really recommend keeping the rest of your day free – you don’t want to miss out.

The one thing that made this stop difficult was getting here.

The train was simple enough, but we had a truly difficult time figuring out which bus—and which bus stop—would take us to the memorial. When you do get on the bus—and it’s a bit of a ride, so grab seats if you can!—the easiest thing is to talk to the driver. Ours was very nice and called back to us when we got to our stop so we couldn’t miss it.

*********

Day two had us out near Cambridge to explore the huge area which houses the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.

Duxford airfield is absolutely huge and there were no audioguides when we visited. Things can get a little confusing if you go out of order and it’s not hard to get lost, so pay attention to where you are.

For us, this was a lot of review so if you want the overview of the war, I’d make this my first stop and then hit the Battle of Britain War Museum for something deeper.

Tilting Down the Cam. Cambridge, England. June 2015.
Punting Down the Cam. Cambridge, England. June 2015.

Still, there were interesting parts such as wandering an active air field and looking at retire planes of all types and sizes.

One thing to mention is watch the eating times. Some of the cafes only serve hot foods at specific times and they do keep to that schedule; therefore, if you plan to eat, plan it out!

One of my favorite parts of this day trip was wandering through Cambridge after we left the airfield. If this is your plan—once again—I really recommend talking to the bus driver. Ours gave us an impromptu tour and told us which stop to get off at as well as which direction we’d want to head to get to campus.

We seemed to be there around graduation, so a lot of areas were closed for that, but we did go punting down the Cam which was absolutely beautiful. This whole area made me wish I’d looked a little longer before picking a grad school but, alas, this is one stop I’ll be hitting again before I wrap up my stay in December!

***********

Our last excursion had us cracking codes at Bletchley Park.

If you’ve seen The Imitation Game you will already know some of the history of the place and how important the work done here was. For me, it was fascinating learning about the amount of women working here as well as the way in which information moved—some buildings used chutes and brooms to pass work between them!

Wandering Bletchley. Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England. June 2015.
Wandering Bletchley. Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England. June 2015.

This is another great venue with interactive aspects—mostly in the main building—which teache you some of the coding and, before you leave, you should definitely stop in and see the explanation and demonstration with the Bombe—the code breaking machine shown in the film.

While they do have great audio guides, don’t fully depend on them or you will miss out on some gems. Throughout the green areas, hidden speakers play scenes which you might have witnessed when this was an active war site, from the sounds of children playing to a couple’s first date, which shows how alive this area was—it wasn’t all work!

Also, there is a walking tour which I recommend. The guides all seem great and we were lucky enough to find that ours was a writer on one of the period television shows my mom watches, so you are never sure what or who you will discover.

While we spent a good deal of the day here, we did not have enough time to see the whole thing, however, luckily the ticket allows you to visit for an entire year so that will be in the cards, along with another site nearby with other cryptography items.

*************

If you are looking to visit WWII themed historic stops while you are in London, there are so many places I haven’t mentioned, but you can find out more by looking through The Imperial War Museum website as well as doing any other basic search you would undertake in your travel prep.

And that was our WWII tours conclusion and the end of my mom and sister’s visit which of course means the hardest part of travel—getting back to reality.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

London calling…