Berchtesgaden

Big D and I spent a weekend in the German Alps last September – visiting The Eagles Nest was our primary goal. We even watched the final few Band of Brothers episodes to brush up on history (as seen through the eyes of Tom Hanks, anyway…)

The drive south included a few miles in Austria (adding another country to Fletcher’s doggie passport) and was slow thanks to rain and terrible traffic.

stuck in traffic

We took an informative, guided tour the first day featuring a museum, Third Reich sites in the area, an elaborate bunker system, and a trip to Kehlsteinhaus – the Eagle’s Nest.

bunker

5 May 1945 French Army graffiti in a bunker
5 May 1945 French Army graffiti in a bunker

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)
This fireplace was a birthday gift to Hitler from Mussolini

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)
I’m sorry, I ordered the large??

Sadly, the weather that day was not cooperative:
Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)

We were shocked when we awoke the next morning and saw the view of Kehlsteinhaus from our hotel room!
Eagle's Nest view from our room

Our tour guide told us how to hike from our hotel to Hitler’s actual summer house (he never resided at the nest) via an unassuming, unmarked path. We took her advice and also took advantage of the great weather:

driveway to Berghof

Berghof foundation remains
remains of the Berghof foundation

To deter tourists, sight-seers, and neo-Nazis, the Bavarian government blew up the ruins of the Berghof on 30 April 1952, the anniversary of Hitler’s death.

self timed at Berghof foundation remains
using the self timer

And then we put the top down on my car, drove around, and really enjoyed the day, which included an electric boat ride on the Königssee, which was breathtaking!

Berchtesgaden

Königssee
For scale, note the church on the lower left.

Königssee

Königssee

And then we ventured back to the Eagle’s Nest, and oh what a difference a day makes!

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)

berchtesgaden view from Kehstein

at Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)
Enjoying a Hofbrau above the clouds

Our evening walk included a stop at Hotel Zum Türken, one of only 3 remaining buildings on the Platterhof – and former SS Headquarters.

Hotel Zum Türken
Photography forbidden? Whoops.

And after a cocktail to round out the evening and a short walk downtown the next morning, our trip came to a close.

relaixng at our hotel

Königliches Schloss Berchtesgaden

More photos from our adventures in the Bavarian Alps are over on Flickr.

Tulips, Bicycles, Windmills

When the Queen’s Day celebrations concluded, Tricia and I packed up our orange gear and headed to the Keukenhof to see the tulips:

Lisse, Netherlands tulip fields

farmers fields

Keukenhof

Tricia

Keukenhof

Tricia & me at the Keukenhof

After tiptoeing through all of those beautiful tulips, we drove across the countryside, took an unexpected ferry ride, and stayed at an adorable B&B near the Kinderdijk.

Our days there were full of bike rides and windmills:

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

Such a beautiful, relaxing getaway. Even sorting through the photos makes me say Ahhhhhh….Tons more photos of the Netherlands are over on my Flickr page.

Koninginnedag 2012

The Dutch celebrate an annual orange crush – Queen’s day, or Koninginnedag – a national holiday like no other, on the Queen’s birthday each year. Though, really, they are such considerate people they reschedule her cold, wintery birthdate to April to assure enjoyable weather.

Nobody at last year’s event knew it would be the last regular celebration for quite some time. Beloved Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne to her son Willem-Alexander today, so it’ll be King’s Day for quite a while.

Backstory and history aside, what an experience!

Tricia and I were armed with a few orange outfits, and lots of smiles:
On the road to Amsterdam

Queen’s Night kicked off the pandemonium and served as a preview of what was to come:
Queen's Night

Queen’s Day started with a nationwide garage sale – I snapped this picture from our hotel room quite early that morning:
Queen's Day

The streets and parks were packed with booths and tables full of folks doing all kinds of things to earn (tax-free) money, like flipping pancakes to fund their upcoming wedding…
Queen's Day

Or letting people throw eggs at their face:
Queen's Day

How’s about a Queen-themed beanbag toss?
Queen's Day game

I loved everyone’s ingenuity and creativeness, and the fact that lots of booths were family affairs – even tiny kids got in on the action. And we could tell the day was full of family traditions.

As the day progressed, so did the party:
Queen's Day

Queen's Day

Queen's Day

Queen's Day

We were lucky enough to meet up with Rachel – it felt like spending time with an old friend since we’ve followed each other online for a few years.
Music brings the people together
Rachel’s the one wearing Orange. Ha! That’s her in the middle.

And it was crazy that we said good-bye, and then ran into her in the crowd again later – considering the masses, what were the chances!?
Queen's Day

Queen's Day on Leidsegracht

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the Bulldog (if you’re a tourist, and I am. And no, we didn’t smoke any.)
The Bulldog

We were pretty tired by the end of the day…
Tricia relaxing

And ended the day like Queens.
our Queen's Day finale

Tune in tomorrow – there are lots of tulips, bicycles, and windmills coming up next!

Ich bin ein Berliner

When friends ask, “What’s the best city you’ve visited?” I always reply the same way. Other than our German hometown, Wiesbaden, it’s a tie between Paris and Berlin.

Memorial Day 2011 found Big D and I exploring the city where old and new are truly meshed as one:

Locals call her "Chick on a Stick"
The Berlin Victory Column, or Siegessäule, is affectionately referred to as The Chick on a Stick – I immediately recognized it from the U2 Stay video.

Faraway, So Close

Statue of Victoria

The view from the top provided a fantastic preview of what we’d see throughout the course of the weekend:
view from the Victory Column

Day two started with one of my very favorite things: Keith Haring artwork!
Haring sculpture at Potsdamer Platz

Anhalter Bahnhof
We strolled by the Anhalter Bahnhof without knowing what it is and later learned that not only was this where Mussolini would arrive by rail, but it was also used as a deportation station for Holocaust victims. All that remains is the façade – a soccer (or football, depending on where you’re from) field is behind it.

I'm in the West, Big D is in East Germany
Big D stands in the former East Germany, I’m in the West.

Checkpoint Charlie and an iPad2 ad
I loved the juxtaposition of Checkpoint Charlie and the iPad 2 advertisement.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is plain, moving – and controversial. Read more about it here.

We saw a lot of these sights while we took the Fat Tire Bike Tour. I’ve done the tour in all of their cities (Paris, London, Berlin and Barcelona) and Berlin is my favorite.

Fat Tire Bike Tour

Reistag Building
Reistag – capitol building

Berliner Dom
Berliner Dom

If you’ve been following this blog for even a small amount of time the following phrase won’t surprise you a bit… We visited the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum to see their Keith Haring collection and (here it comes…) I walked into this room and I burst into tears.
I was overwhelmed!

Big D was so patient as I wandered through the museum gasping at each piece even though he doesn’t really appreciate this particular kind of art at all.

Haring Mask

I was lucky enough to be back in Berlin last July with Tricia. Our visit was part of a whirlwind trip (Köln on July 4 to see Snow Patrol, Berlin on July 5 to see Pearl Jam, and back at our respective homes on July 7 – that’s more than 900 miles by train in 4 days!)

Fat Tire Bike Tour
We took the Fat Tire tour with friends we met at the show – and I’m looking forward to seeing some of them in Chicago for more Pearl Jamming this summer!

Checkpoint Charlie

Tricia

me with a piece of the wall

Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate

Keith & me
Berlin! Someday I’ll return, if only to stand here one more time.

Europe’s most content city

When our trusted Cheese Man (That’s right, we had our own Cheese Man!) suggested Jen and I visit Maastricht, Netherlands because it’s the supposedly the most content city in Europe, we knew it would be delightful. Was it ever!

The town, which we quickly dubbed Happy Land, is situated on the River Maas.
Maastricht, Netherlands

We were treated to a tiny parade while we had breakfast. Or I guess more accurately: a single band played and marched by us.
A one band parade

We spent the day exploring the pedestrian area, shopping at a church rummage sale, and touring the North Caves at Fort St. Pieter.
Jen at the North Caves entrance
Jen at the North Caves Entrance

Caves of St. Pietersberg map

The caves formed over many centuries by the quarrying of the local marlstone. Originally there were some 20,000 passages with a total length of 200km/125mi. During the Second World War some of the passages were enlarged, a well was dug and storerooms, a bakery and even a chapel were constructed, providing accommodation in which most of the town’s population could take refuge. (According to our tour guide, treasures were hidden in the caves during WWII, including Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.)

I enjoyed our day trip so much that when Big D returned from deployment a few days later, he and I went for the weekend.

Our first stop was the Netherlands American Cemetery & Memorial.
Netherlands American Cemetery & Memorial

And then we strolled through the town:
Maastricht, Netherlands

Basilica of the Virgin Mary
Basilica of the Virgin Mary

We were thrilled to find a very nice hotel situated on the river that honors the US Government rate. Its affordability made us frequent guests.
River Maas

Big D & me at dinner
Dinner at our Dutch home away from home

view at dinner
View during dinner

We soon learned that Tongeren, supposedly the oldest town in Belgium and home to the biggest antique flea market in the Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg region, is only nine miles from Maastricht. Since flea market shopping is an early morning venture, we’d drive to Maastricht to explore on Saturday, shop in Tongeren on Sunday morning, and be back at our home in Germany in time for dinner. I’ve lost track of how many times we visited, but I have lots of treasures from each trip.

view from sports store window
It’s Christmastime in the city…

carnival in Maastricht
Carnival

Carnival decorations
Carnival

our hotel was decked out
Carnival colors lit the night

Florida school bus!
You have to agree that it is CRAZY that city tours are conducted on an old Florida school bus!

fun statues in Maastricht

And in all honesty, this is how we spent a lot of time in Maastricht:
Carnival in Maastricht is tasty!

Maastricht, Netherlands

City of Sekt and Roses

Hello from yet another hotel room, this one in the Toronto, Canada suburb of Vaughn. Big D, Fletcher, and I made the trip from Germany to the US, spent 10 days in Virginia, and signed a lease on a townhouse in Old Town, Alexandria. Since our move in date isn’t until the first week of May, Fletcher and I are here in The Great White North with Big D while he takes a class to master yet another aircraft. Stay tuned for details on what will be our new hometown…

But while I’m here, I am really going to try to finish up posting about European adventures.

Etville is one of the first little towns we explored in the Rheingau and it quickly became a favorite. We included stops there whenever we hosted out of towners, we attended plenty of fests hosted by the town, and when I needed a pick-me-up because one of Big D’s deployments was extended, Tricia knew a stroll there was just what I needed.

Eltville celebrates 22,000 examples of 350 different species during its Rose Festival each June.

Rosenstadt Eltville

Rosenstadt Eltville

Eltville

In 2010, we celebrated Tricia’s birthday at Piccolo Mondo – a restaurant frequented by Sean Connery when he stayed in the town while filming in In the Name of the Rose.

Tricia & Big D

Eltville

Later in 2010, I was lucky enough to pick grapes during the harvest at Weingut Eberbacher Hof:
Weingut Eberbacher Hof

Team Virginia-Straße

a small part of our harvest

Even when the roses are gone, Eltville is beautiful:
Eltville

In spring 2011, we enjoyed a guided walking tour of the town:
oldest cobblestones in Eltville, Germany

Eltville, Germany

Crooked little house in Eltville, Germany

We were back again that fall with Big D’s mom:
the Rhine in Eltville

And in the spring of last year? You guessed it: more roses!
Eltville

I’m not going to say things at the Eltville Sekt Fest got a little wacky, but….
me & Grayson Barbara

Michael me & Grayson

I think its fitting that I took this photo in the Hattenheim neighborhood on my last visit to the area:
Ahhhhhh!