Animals have been dear to my heart since I was a child and when a friend invited me to travel with her to Alsace, France to see monkeys roaming freely and to get the chance to get close to them. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect the area the monkeys roamed to look like. They are fenced in, but this is only recognized at the entrance. After that you walk a well known path in which the monkeys swing above and scurry across. You may see one monkey or up to 10 in one given area.
It is very important that when you feed the monkeys popcorn your hand is laying flat and that you do not make eye contact with them. You also should not follow the monkeys but allow them to come to you. You should also not put the spare popcorn in your bags or pockets, but should hold it in your hand close to your waist so they cannot see it. Although we followed these rules strictly please be aware that the monkeys may still attack. I didn't see this warning anywhere, but it is kind of obvious since they are still wild animals. The monkey shown above was one we spent about 10-15 minutes with and he did hiss, bare his teeth, and charge at my friends daughter. She swung her daughter away by the arms and calmly walked away.
If you are understanding of this being a possibility than I highly suggest you visiting. It is a rather unique experience for animals lovers. You can see newborns with their moms and personalities beaming from these little guys. The one below was a hoot as he was relaxing and watching people walk by and his monkey friends playing. If you are able to explore monkey mountain there are many castles located nearby as well that you can join. After we left we stayed the night in Strasbourg which is not very far away.
They say the fountains of Lucerne, Switzerland are clean enough to drink from. We saw many using reusable water bottles to do just that. We were told that the water from the fountains is the highest quality water in Switzerland, aka they all contain tap water.We were a little skeptical about this but with the prices for water in Lucerne we gave it a shot and it tasted just like bottled water. Our local tour guide told us that there are over 200 fountains in the metropolitan area and 166 of these are public.
We were told the water is regularly inspected and cleaned with ultraviolet rays to kill germs. The water is mostly collected from the lake at the foothill of Mount Pilatus. One of the most popular fountains to see is the Fritschi Fountain. Most likely while shopping for chocolates & cheeses in the main squares you will accidentally wander across these famous fountains.
There are many different fountains in Lucerne so how do you know which ones are worth the visit? You can wander around or you can join a tour to assure you will cross paths with these beauties. We visited the most famous ones with our tour guide. These are not your average water fountains. The intricate architecture of these fountains definitely made them worth a long pause. Enjoy your visit and don't forget to seek out these fountains while strolling around the city.
Above & below you can see photos of the Fritschi Fountain which is 100 years old!
One place I wish I could have spent more time exploring in Budapest would have been the Fisherman's Bastion. The building's colors were marvelous & the views were breathtaking. The fairy tale terrace and towers built in a neo-Gothic style made me want to run up and down the staircase in a long ball gown. The 7 turrets represent the 7 Hungarian tribes who founded the present day country in 895.
The name actually comes from the fisherman who protected the guild during the Middle Ages. Even if you don't get a chance to go inside of the chapel like I had wanted to you should at least grab a seat at the cafe. You can see a photograph of the cafe above. When everything around was bustling with people the cafe only had two guests that were sitting down. They had the view all to themselves. At night there is an observation tower that is free to look out from & I have seen photographs people have taken from this tower in which the city is lit up and sparkling.
The tiled orange & teal roof had me spellbound. If you are like me and always seeking a magical atmosphere do not miss out on exploring the Fisherman's Bastion. My biggest regret is not dedicating more time to see every inch of this structure. It is a remarkable building so please don't make the mistake that I did. Take your time when visiting this beauty.
When in Budapest take your time to walk along the Danube River on the Parliament side. There is a overwhelmingly moving memorial that runs along the river for the Jews who were murdered during WWII. I have never seen a memorial that made me feel such nausea & gave me chills quite like the Shoes on the Danube. It is definitely a tear jerker.
The shoes scattered along the river bank are a representation of those who were forced to remove their shoes as they were shot, their lifeless bodies falling backwards into the river. Mothers, daughters, children, brothers, and fathers were carried away by the water as if a piece of trash that was crumbled up and discarded into the water.
Imagine dreamily gazing out at majestic mountains and boats lazily drifting across a glistening lake. From another view you can see turquoise water rushing through a dam and two foot bridges bustling with couples & families eating delicious Swiss chocolates and cheeses from the local shops along the river. This was my view from 4 out of the 9 towers in the town of Lucerne, Switzerland and along its wall. If you have the opportunity to stop in Lucerne or are planning a trip to get away from a large city for awhile, a walk along the the Musegg Wall and up the 4 towers is a must.
The wall was built in 1386 and all four towers the Schirmer, Zyt, Wacht and Männli are open to the public. According to the Luzern Cities website, the oldest clock in the city which was built in 1535 by Hands Luter is allowed to chime every hour one minute before all the other city clocks. This clock is located in the Zyt Tower. I personally did not care much for this tower because every part of the mechanical makeup of the clock was covered by a old scratched up plastic and it did not have a nice view from the top of the tower. If you have a love for clocks I do suggest a visit though. The other towers offered the amazing views, but the walk up the steep inclined steps is not for the faint of heart or the young and elderly.
The towers and wall are maintained beautifully and are free of charge. So if you find yourself in the charming town of Lucerne grab some chocolates, pop in some headphones & play Sigur Ros, & enjoy them while looking out at the stunning view for free and you will think you died and went to heaven.
Are you stumbling into a trip to Budapest because you have heard it is cheap but you don't know much about what to see or do there? Start your trip off the right way by going to Gellert Hill first thing. It truly is one of my favorite spots to visit in Budapest that doesn't cost you a dime. The views are something out of a travel magazine & the soft breeze brushing your shoulders while you look out with a thankful heart is inspirational. The panoramic views the hill has to offer cannot be found anywhere else in the city.
The hill has a sad history however. The bishop Saint Gerard is who the hill is named after. He was thrown from the hill in a barrel which killed him in 1046 during the great pagan rebellion of the time. There is a statue at the top of the hill of St. Gellert that I loved. There is also Budapest's Statue of Liberty which I found many travelers sitting on the base of and looking out in awe at the view. In the 18th century the hill was primarily used as a wine vineyard. Yet, during WWII it served as a great military advantage. With all of this history & the views, Gellert Hill is absolutely not to be missed!
The Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival is located about 2 and a half hours from Grafenwoehr so I wasn't sure whether the drive would be worth it. I quickly realized that of you love pumpkins and you enjoy trying new things it is a must! I wasn't sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised at some of the activities and sights at the festival. When we arrived we went down the path less taken. On this route my friend's children could talk to the polzei and get a little sheet stamped at different centers which taught the children about safety. Once the sheet was full they each got a small free pumpkin.
Along the path we had the opportunity to gawk at about a dozen beautiful sand statues. All of them took days to create. I was amazed by these & did not expect to see these at the festival so it was a delightful bonus. The Ludwigsburg Festival also has different special events each weekend. The event that took place the weekend we were there was the pumpkin canoe regatta. It was amazing watching people paddling against one another in a race rocking back and forth in gigantic pumpkins. Other events I think I would enjoy are the Giant Pumpkin Carving on the 15th of October 2017 and the European Pumpkin Weigh off on the 8th of October 2017.
Besides having a different event on the weekends, they also every year have a new theme for the festival and this year the pumpkin sculptures were based on Rome. There was a man carving pumpkin sculptures while we were there as well. My favorite part of the festival was definitely buying and tasting all sorts of pumpkin flavored food & drinks. The items I purchased to taste at home was the wine & liqour. I was not a fan of the wine because it hardly had flavor; however a swig or two of the liquor was such a sweet treat and helped my sore throat. I would love to buy it again.
You can see what I tasted below which included pumpkin soup, pumpkin spatzle, and pumpkin soda. I didn't care for the soda as it tasted like a vegetable juice. The spatzle was good, but the soup was AMAZING! I wish I could have tasted the cookies, ice cream, jam, and bought some pumpkin seeds as well. I would love to go back and look forward to it. It is defiantly worth the hype and drive.
One of my favorite things we did in Berlin was visit the Ramones Museum for a nostalgic throw back to our teens. If you have a love & respect for rock & roll it is a must. This punk band had a huge influence on rock and roll. The museum's website states that the museum is the first and the only museum dedicated to the band. The museum also acts as a cafe and a tiny venue in which local bands come and play. The gentlemen working reminded me of Ryan Ross circa Panic at the Disco during the Pretty Odd album. Click HERE to see a photograph if you don't know who I am talking about. Ryan Ross is the second guy from the left.
The guy at the counter let us choose a drink and handed us a Ramones pin. He said hold onto it & bring it back the next time we are in Berlin because we could use the pin for life to get us into the museum for free from now on. We pushed passed small swinging doors drinking our fritz and checking out the memorabilia that was arranged before us on the rustic walls.
The Museum was small but had a ton of memorabilia ranging from tickets, hand written lyrics, pieces of clothing, & some of the first promotional show posters. The museum goes in chronological order too which keeps it all organized nicely for OCD people like me, haha. The cafe area also was intimately smaller with cute seating & tons of photographs of famous people hanging on the walls signed over the years by those who have visited the cafe/museum.
If you find yourself in Berlin & want a feeling for the younger vibe the city has going on I cannot suggest enough popping in and spending about an hour in the Ramones cafe/ museum. Better yet, buy a cheap ticket & catch the band for that night! The guy at the front counter was ridiculously sweet & invited us to come back to watch a band play later that night. Unfortunately we had to leave early the next morning so we couldn't.
You can enjoy a show though since you've had a heads up! Why not relive your former rock and roll years? We all were angsty teens once, right? Better yet post a picture of you when you were in that awkward angsty teen phase in the comment section of this post on FB, because if you don't did it really ever happen?
My favorite architectural building in Budapest was definitely Parliament with it's blood red dome & sharp spires sprouting towards the sky. We didn't tour the inside due to the fact that I read it is difficult to do an English tour and non-Europeans get charged almost double the price. This rubbed me the wrong way so we explored the outside & took delight in a odd optical illusion attraction behind it & the Shoes on the Danube beside it instead. If architecture is part of the reason you look forward to travel you MUST see this building.
Some of the best views of Parliament are from The Fisherman's Bastion and from across the river. To get the Instagrammable photo across-river take the metro line to the stop called Batthyany Ter on the red line #2. When you walk out Parliament will be immediately across the river from you. Don't forget to take photos at the Kossuth Lajos Ter stop as well which will drop you off right at Parliament.
I was surprised to read that the Neo Gothical Building is only a few years past 100 years old. Much of the building reminded me of Notre Dame with it's spire details and gargoyles. If you would like to read about some of the history of Parliament I suggest reading about the gorgeous building HERE.
Although the term iron curtain is the name of the boundary which divided Europe & wasn't a literal iron curtain, the Iron Curtain monument in Budapest is a really neat place to visit if you are into history. The iron curtain stands in front of the House of Terror Museum. Despite the curtain being a representation for the divide the weight, thickness, & cold iron of the chains sets an eerie and heavy feeling.
The monument has rather thought provoking quotes written on the sides. You can read a few of these below. It is definitely worth a stop and I have heard great things about The House of Terror Museum as well. The museum unfortunately was closing as we were strolling up to the monument. We spent time as well looking at the outside wall of the museum as too as it is a very interesting architectural piece. You can see what I mean for yourself HERE.