Castles in Europe

Before I start blogging about this year, I want to share my adventures from last year.

It was a pretty big travel year for me.  I have been dreaming about going to Europe for years, specifically to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.  Last March, we made those dreams come true and I was able to cross #1 off my bucket list – tour castles in Europe.

And as always, along the way, we had many other adventures that weren’t on my list. I’ll start with Germany.  I did organize a fairly detailed itinerary for our trip to make things easier for us since we were traveling alone and don’t speak the language.  We also booked our airbnbs for all three cities (Munich, Venice, and Rome) before we left the States.  However, other than specific dates for each city, the rest of the itinerary was fairly flexible.

We started off our Eurotrip by flying into Munich on March 18, 2017 and arriving in the morning.  From the airport, we took a train to central station in Munich.  We had some difficulty figuring out how to buy a train ticket and then how to validate it, but luckily a local helped us out.

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We couldn’t check into our airbnb until later that afternoon, so we stored our hiking packs at the central train station.  They have lockable boxes you can rent for pretty cheap.

Then we took a train and bus to Dachau Concentration Camp.  On the train, we met a very nice man from Australia who was also heading to Dachau.  I was relieved that the directions I found online of which train and bus to take from Munich to Dachau were accurate.

Dachau Concentration Camp was surreal.  K referred to it as a “sobering experience”.  The museum was very informative and interesting from a historical perspective, but it was of course very sad.  Apart from the museum, you are free to wander around the camp.  We spent several hours here – there is a lot to see.  The weather was cold and rainy – luckily we brought some warm hats!

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After we got back to Munich, we grabbed our bags and then headed off to find some lunch.  Unfortunately, we walked for ages and couldn’t find a single place to eat.  By this time, I also really needed to find a toilet, which proved to be more elusive than a restaurant.  This was a low point of our trip.  We were cold, wet, jet-lagged, hungry, in desperate need of a bathroom, and in a country where we don’t speak the language.  By some stroke of luck, we finally stumbled upon an Italian place as we headed back in the direction of the train station.  Although we would be in Italy in a few days, we decided to stop here anyway because it was warm, it was food, and there was a bathroom.  After a few minutes, our stress faded away.  I think the drinks helped with that.

We checked into our airbnb flat after lunch, which happened to be right next to the Italian restaurant.  Our home for the next couple days was very nice and close to the train station.

That night, we went to a beer hall that K read about online, called Augustiner.  This place was my favorite thing about Munich.  When we arrived, it was all community seating at big long tables.  We found what looked like the only empty spots, two seats next to each other across from a couple older gentleman.  It turns out that they were from Sweden, but they spoke German too and some English.  It was definitely a humbling experience for me to see that most people we encountered in Europe spoke more than one language.  I don’t think that we do a very good job of that in America.

We actually never found out the names of the gentlemen we sat with at Augustiner, but they were very nice.  It was pretty loud in the beer hall.  Their English was limited and our German was reliant on a pocket translation guide, with our Swedish being non-existent.  But despite language barriers, we had a fun night with those guys, who we affectionately referred to as Pieter and Marten from that night on.  The food was amazing and the beer at Augustiner was actually the first beer that I have ever liked.

As we were leaving, we met a really funny (and very intoxicated) English man who had us rolling with laughter.  All in all, it was a great night.

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Unfortunately, K woke up sick the next day with a bit of a travel bug.  This was the day we planned to take a train to Neuschwanstein Castle, and it was the only day we would be able to go as we were leaving Munich the following day.  I offered to go on my own while K rested at our flat, but despite being sick, he did not want to spend our last full day in Munich in bed.

We grabbed croissants and coffee for breakfast at the train station.  The train took about 2 hours and then there was a short bus ride to Hohenschwangau, the small town where the castle is.  The view on the train was very scenic.  Also, I just love trains.

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We booked our tickets for both castles (Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau) in advance before our trip, but were able to upgrade to an earlier tour time once we arrived.  We toured Hohenschwangau Castle first, and then stopped for a quick lunch.  I had a delicious schnitzel sandwich and poor K, still sick, nibbled on a pretzel.

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We had a little bit of time in between the castle tours, so we went for a walk around the area.  There was a beautiful lake nearby.

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Can you imagine waking up to this view every day?!

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The lake water was so beautiful!

Finally, we made the trek up to Neuschwanstein.  I was pretty much bursting with excitement.  My ultimate travel goal was actually happening!  The sound is pretty soft on this video, but you can see the excitement on my face!

No photos were allowed inside the castle, but if you are ever in Munich, I would highly recommend that you take the day trip to Hohenschwangau.  The castles are amazing and the scenery in the area is absolutely beautiful.  This place was everything I hoped it would be and more.

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We were pretty tired by the time we got back to Munich and K was still feeling pretty bad, so we grabbed some food from the train station and took it back to our flat.  If he would have been feeling better, it would have been fun to have one last night out in Munich, but we decided to stay in so he could rest up for the rest of our trip.

The next morning, we took a bus to the airport.  We had some trouble finding the bus stop, and actually ended up running to make it on time.  Nothing like jogging with a heavy pack on your back in the early hours of the morning!

Once we got to the airport, our troubles were not over.  I had some difficulty getting through security because apparently I had too many liquids in my bag.  It was a little nerve-wracking to have problems at a foreign airport.  The security officer actually pulled my liquids out one by one to examine them, but most of them he referred to as “medicine”, such as my contact solution (“medicine for the eyes”), so these were excluded from the limit.  I ended up having to throw out one small container of dry shampoo that was almost empty anyway.

We departed Munich at 8:20 am on March 20th, 2017.  It was a quick trip, but we were able to see a lot in a couple days.

Next stop, Italia, but I’ll save that post for another day.

-A

Change Your Life

Number 125 on my adventure list – watch 1 documentary a month for an entire year – inspired me to make some big changes.

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There were a few busier months where I didn’t watch a documentary, but I am still counting this goal as complete since I watched a total of 13.  After I watched each one, I summed up one or two main points that I wanted to apply to my own life.  Looking back on this list, I’m happy to say that several changes I made really stuck.

From The Human Experiment I watched over a year ago, I decided to reduce my use of plastic kitchen containers, as well as make my own green cleaners.  Today, we have mostly glass food containers.  I also use my own green cleaners, made mainly from vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils.

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For the most part, we have been eating much healthier after watching Forks over Knives and Sugar Coated.  

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After watching Tiny and Minimalism, I was inspired to reduce clutter, and I did!  (However, I still wasn’t at the point I wanted to be until I completed Marie Kondo’s “Konmari method” this January and February, which I will be blogging about soon.)

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There are some other ideas from these documentaries that are still a work in progress.  After watching Life 2.0, I wanted to spend less time wasting time online or watching TV, and more time living.  This is something I am still working on.  I am also still trying to find my “exercise flow” after watching Happy.  My takeaway from watching GMO OMG was a renewed interest in starting my own garden.

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Watching these films probably wasn’t my sole reason for making changes since I chose documentaries about topics I was already interested in.  However, I did get some solid ideas on how to get started.  It was also a fun way to get some more information (but be sure to do your own research after watching.)

What’s the most life-changing documentary you’ve ever watched?

-A

It Might Taste Good

Last month, the 3-year old daughter of some friends was singing a cute little diddy from Daniel Tiger about how you need to try new foods ’cause they might taste good, and I thought, that’s some great advice.

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It’s so easy to get stuck in the habit of eating the same stuff or cooking the same meals, so at the beginning of the year I set a goal to encourage myself to branch out and try new things.  Number 123 on my adventure list – try at least 10 new foods/cuisines within one year.

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So far in 2016, I have tried Ethiopian, Mediterranean, French, Turkish, American Indian, Egyptian, Scandinavian, Colombian, St. Lucian, and Austrian-German cuisines.  I also tried some Japanese foods that were new to me.  Of the dishes I tried, five were at restaurants I’ve never been to, and seven were samples from booths at an Ethnic Enrichment Festival in my city.

It’s hard to narrow down the list to which foods I liked the best, because I actually liked them all!

The Ethiopian food we had was especially delicious, my favorite thing being the injera (spongy, sour flatbread).  Since our first visit, we have returned to the restaurant and plan to go again in the future.

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I also loved the Mediterranean food we had.  It inspired me to start making my own pita bread, hummus, and lentil soup.

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My new favorite snack – homemade pita bread and hummus

I think the food I was most nervous to try was escargot…703784_10206460995505968_4049882212204343064_o

but it was actually really good!

I was also surprised to find that at the Austrian-German restaurant, I loved the sauerkraut on the bratwurst appetizer.

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Going to the Ethnic Enrichment Festival was an amazing experience.  The only downside was that I got too full too quickly.  🙂  Next time, I would like to go to the festival on more than one day so I can try everything!

My favorite food at the festival was the Colombian empanadas (fried pastry with beef and potato filling, served with salsa verde).

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You can read more here about all the new foods I tried.  Although I can officially cross this goal off my list, it’s far from being over.  I am actually just inspired to try more new foods.  Because you know what?  It might taste good.

-A

 

Baked with Love

Number 51 on my list is to make one new recipe per month for a year.  I have been bad about blogging recipes every month, but I have definitely made at least one new dish every month.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Key Lime Pie (used this recipe for the crust and this one for the filling)

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I’m not a huge key lime fan, but it is my boyfriend’s favorite so I made it for him.

Apple Pie (Unfortunately, I can’t remember what recipe I used.  I did use one recipe for the crust and one for the filling.  I also used Pink Lady apples instead of the apples called for in the recipe.  This helped me figure out how to do the lattice crust.  Turned out delicious!)

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Whole Wheat Rolls

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So, so good!

Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding

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I have made this several times since. What a great comfort food, especially warm from the stove.

I also tried a single serving hot chocolate recipe, which was pretty good, and Sour Cream Bacon Chicken.  A couple weekends ago, I made Buffalo Ranch Chicken Dip – yum!  K and I made Grilled Cheeseburger Wraps last week, which we really liked.

I did try one recipe that I didn’t really care for – Brownie in a Mug.  I never thought I would say this, but it was too much chocolate.  I could only eat a few bites.

Stay tuned for my next post with an update on Number 38 on my list – make one craft a month for a year!

-A