Been to: Füssen – Bavaria

It’s been a while since my last post. Summer, sun and travelling have gotten in the way. Now it seems like autumn has started, returning with colder weather and shorter days.

We were lucky to capture the last warm – or rather hot – and sunny days in Bavaria. Only a 3,5 h trip from where we live, there is this beautiful town of Füssen. It’s situated in the region Allgäu somewhat right in the middle of Bavaria. And what can I say – I love this little town and its surroundings. It has some mountains and lakes as well as one of the most well-known German tourist attractions – Neuschwanstein Castle (which is actually located in Hohenschwangau some two kilometres away).

I’ve been to Füssen several times already. My grandparents used to live here and throughout my childhood we’ve visited them during summertime. Later on I went there with my mum but also the past years with my husband. For me it’s my feel-good, comfort place. The place I long to be when I don’t feel my best and things are just blah… but aside from that Füssen is a perfect place to relax, hike, bike and swim for everyone.

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View from our rental apartment.

This time around we had a vacation rental with a view of the two tallest mountains of the area – Tegelberg and Säuling – as well as a minor peek at the Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s been perfect. Watching the mountains with paragliders trundling down was just so beautiful and relaxing.

Where to stay:

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View of Neuschwanstein castle from a pasture right next to our rental.

We’ve always found the best way to stay – especially if you’re on a budget – is to rent an appartment. They are so many on offer, it’s easy to find one.

But also staying on a farm has its charm. If you are willing to stay a couple of kilometres outside of town, there are a lot of good options that won’t cost you a fortune. It’s probably especially interesting if you’re travelling with kids.

Hotels are usually a bit on the pricier side. But you can also find some good bed&breakfast options on the Füssen tourist information website.

What to do:

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Hohenschwangau castle – view from a scenic point close to Neuschwanstein.

As I’ve already mentioned, Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the main attractions of this area together with the older castle of Hohenschwangau. The sight of the Neuschwanstein Castle exterior alone is breathtaking. The interior probably not so much. Since the castle was never finished, there are just a few rooms to visit inside the castle itself. The tour is pretty quick. About 20 minutes and you’re done. After waiting in line for a ticket for about an 1 hour (or longer) and traipsing up the hill, this can be a bit disappointing. There is more to see at Hohenschwangau Castle, which is a little bit older and used to be the main living place for Bavarian king Ludwig II.

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Neuschwanstein castle from Marienbrücke.

If you want to have a truly stunning view of Neuschwanstein Castle and its surroundings, you have to walk up to Marienbrücke. It’s the view you most often see on postcards or posters.

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Another sight – the Lech fall.

Aside from the castles, Füssen (and the surrounding areas) offer a variety of minor sights. There are some churches like St. Coloman and the Wieskirche as well as the Hohes Schloss in Füssen and the Monastery Ettal.

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Monastery Ettal

Also the city of Oberammergau is worth a visit with its Lüftle paintings on the house fronts and the Passion plays every ten years (next plays take place in 2020).

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Oberammergau – Lüftle painting on Ludwig Thoma’s birth place.

Apart from all the sights nature is of course the biggest attraction of them all. There are so many hikes and bike tours you can do here that it probably takes several years to do them all. This time around we took it easy and embarked on some less strenous tours.

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Hopfensee

If you like bike riding, a tour around lake Forggensee could be just your thing. It’s an easy tour with just a little bit of up and down and most of the time you have a great view of the lake and lots of restaurants and cafes to stop and refresh. The best thing, if you are too lazy to complete the whole round, you can just take the boat to bring you back to your starting point.

If you are looking for a nice walk/hike that isn’t too demanding, I can recommend the walk along the Alpsee (lake), crossing the border towards Austria and stopping at the restaurant “Zum Schluxen” – which is said to have been a resting stop for king Ludwig II when he was travelling to castle Linderhof (another attrachtion worth visiting – by the way). You can take the same way back or walk along the Roman street or the Kratzer hill towards Füssen. One stop just between the German/Austrian border is the Walderlebniszentrum (forest experience center), which offers some great activities and walks for children and adults.

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Paraglider jumping off the Buchenberg.

For a walk/hike with a view, the Buchenberg Alm (alpine pasture) is a good place to go. You can take the chair lift up (and down), walk around the scenic tour on top, have a break with a great view of the valley and several lakes at the Buchenberg Alp and walk or take the chair lift down. If you like to go higher up, you should try the Tegelberg which has a cable car going up and down. Both mountains are also starting points for paragliders and hang-gliders, which you can watch jumping off the mountain to glide down to the valley.

Of course there are a lot of other tours and alps that are great too. The Füssen tourist information has put together some great information on them.

And then there are the lakes… the biggest one in the area is the Forggensee. But there are also several other lakes that invite to swim, walk, boat and relax. One of my favourites is the Hopfensee. It’s a two hour tour walking around it and has several places where you can swim. The best thing: swimming while enjoying the fantastic view of mountains and Neuschwanstein castle. Perfect!

Where to eat:

Eating out in Füssen and neighbouring villages can be somewhat of a challenge. A lot of restaurants are very touristy – which means they are pricey and the food is reminiscent of fast food. Since we usually stay at a vacation rental we don’t eat out every day. But here are some places I can recommend:

Ritterstubn, Füssen – touristy but good food and fun

Madame Plüsch, Füssen – pricey but good food and great interior

Olivenbauer, Füssen – theme restaurant with good food and good prices (they also offer home-made beer and schnaps)

Markthalle Füssen – for a quick breakfast or lunch

Saray Kebab, Füssen – Turkish food for a change, really good food for cheap.

Wirtshaus im Weinbauer, Schwangau – best Schweinshaxn (according to my husband), but pricey

Zum Bären, Eisenberg/Zell – traditional restaurant in beautiful setting

Wiesbauer, Hopfen am See – probably not the best food, but a beautiful location and a great stop when walking around lake Hopfensee

All in all, I can only recommend to give this beautiful area a chance. If you ever happen to visit there, don’t just go for Neuschwanstein castle, like most tourists do, but also stay to enjoy the nature and charme Füssen and the surrounding areas have to offer!

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Just love the cows…

  • Sorry that a lot of websites are only available in German. I hope that at least the pictures and some of the information are helpful!

Paris – Mon Amour

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View of the Eiffel Tower from Jardin du Trocadero.

We visited Paris in February and we were lucky. The weather was beautiful and we had an awesome time. This was my fourth time in Paris and probably the best one yet. My husband and I fell in love with the city when we first went there together about two years ago. We fell in love with the cute cafés, the small streets, whacky thrift stores and delicous food. Just to name a few. Of course there are a lot of places where it’s very touristy and major sights are packed but there are also many places not a lot of tourists know or rather care about. Did you know that there is a vineyard at the center of Montmatre? Or have you ever heard of the Allée des Cygnes?

Of course it’s awesome to see the Eiffel Tower, take a boat tour on the Seine, visit the Louvre and to do all those other major attractions in Paris. But it’s also awesome to just walk the streets, to find hidden spaces and places that are beautiful and almost empty. This may sound like I’m a Paris pro, but I’m most definetely not. Actually I’m more a traveller on a budget and I guess this makes you kind of creative – in a good way. So here are my tipps, travel highlights and recommendations.

WHERE TO STAY

First of all, I’d recommend staying in a real Parisian hotel. This might not be for everybody because it usually means it’s rather old and very likely a little dingy and tiny. The first time we went to Paris we stayed at the Hotel Stanislas, which is a very old hotel with a very friendly front desk manager in Montparnasse. It’s clean and has all the amenities you need for a city trip, ie. a bed, a shower/sink/toilet and a relative quietness. It’s also close to two metro stations and some sights can even be conquered on foot.

The second time around we stayed at the Grand Hotel de Clermont which is situated in a quiet street in Montmatre just a short walk away from the infamous Moulin Rouge and beautiful Sacre Coeur. The hotel was cheap, clean and we had a little kitchenette which was perfect for storing and preparing some food. However the bathroom was tiny. My husband barely fit in there. And although it’s in a quiet street, I wouldn’t recommend it in summertime when you have to have the windows open because there is a bar which is famous for having had Edith Piaf as one of its patrons but is also very noisy because people like to sit and smoke outside.

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Just one of the many bakerys in Paris.

WHERE TO EAT

Secondly, when you are on a budget, you might want to avoid going to restaurants all the time. The good thing is – you don’t have to in order to enjoy delicious food! There are plenty of bakerys, little hole-in-the-wall take outs and grocery stores that offer awesome food on a reasonable price. Most of the bakerys or take out places have something that’s called formule, especially for breaktfast/lunch time. It means that you get a beverage, sandwich, dessert or some other combination for a good price like 4-5 Euros. Also supermarket chains such as Monoprix (Monop or Monop Daily) or Carrefour usually have a section with a selection of take out food, ie various salads, desserts, sandwiches, cakes, etc. However if you want to splurge on a restaurant you might like www.lafourchette.com. It’s all in French and you have to register (at no cost) but you can book dinner at certain restaurants (really good ones too!) at 20-50% off. If you’re able to read a little bit in French it’s definitely worth checking it out.

WHAT TO DO

Of course there are a million things to do in Paris. Top of the list is probably the Eiffel Tower. I have to admit, I’ve never been on the top. Two reasons: I’m afraid of heights and there is always a line that’s sooooo long you get tired even looking at it. And in my humble opinion you see everything you need to see of the Eiffel Tower walking around it, under it and admiring it from afar. And if it’s about the view – there are several places around the city that afford a good view and are for free. There is a wonderful place across the Seine – Jardins du Trocadero – and also from the bridge Bir-Hakeim where you have a picture perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. However if you absolutely want to go, buy a ticket in advance.

Speaking of – if you want to visit the Louvre same thing applies. The lines at the pyramid entrance are loooooooooong. So if you do not intend on visiting the museum on the first Sunday of a month when admission is free (only October-March), then go ahead and buy online. Or use the second, less known, entrance at Porte de Lyons. It’s said to be less frequented. Aside from that the Louvre is absolutely worth a visit. Depending on how much you are into art, history or museums in general you should plan your stay accordingly. If you are just going for some main attractions, like the Mona Lisa, you might get through in 2-3 hours. I strongly advise to plan ahead what you absolutely want to see. The space is vast. There is no way you can see everything in a day. And it’s confusing in addition – even with the map that you can get at the entrance. The good thing is that they have plenty of seats throughout the museum so you can have a rest whenever you feel like it.

There are a lot of other major sites you can read all about in your guidebook. So I won’t bother listing them all here. My best advise is to to walk. Walk as much as you can. Because this will take you to places you won’t find otherwise. I absolutely loved walking from the Jardins du Trocadero (or rather the Metro station Trocadero) along the Boulevard Kleber to the Arc de Triomphe. Also a must is walking through Montmatre – don’t be afraid getting off the beaten tracks there and discover less popular streets!

FOR FREE

  • Go up to the Galerie Lafayette rooftop. You will have a perfect view all over the city.
  • Visit the parks – or jardins as they are called here. Usually they are for free and beautifully maintained with art sculptures and quiet spaces.
  • Walk along the Seine – for free and an absolute must.
  • Another great place to walk around although a little bizarr are the cemeteries. Probably the best one is Pere Lachaise although the Montparnasse and Montmatre Cemeteries are equally popular. They are places of tranquillity and quiet. But be aware that most of the close at 5.30-6pm.
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    Pere Lachaise Cemetery

  • Also most of the churches are free to visit – this includes famous Notre Dame and beautiful Sacre Coeur.
  • If you’re up for a musical, opera, comedy, concert or some other kind of entertainment be sure to visit www.billetreduc.com. They sell tickets to a lot of different shows for a reduced price. Only hitch – it’s all in French. But even with basic knowledge you should be able to navigate.
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View from Galerie Lafayette rooftop.

SOME PRACTICAL ADVISE

If you don’t want to walk too much. Take the Metro. They have tourist passes called Paris Visite which allow you to travel on public transport as much as you like for a certain number of days and also include discounts on certain attractions. But if they are a good value highly depends on how long you are staying and how often you plan on taking the Metro/bus/etc. We find that we always walk more than we actually thought, because getting in and out of the metro stations can be a real pain and walking is often much faster and more interesting to boot. Visit the official public transport website to plan ahead. Metro tickets are easily bought in every station. You can choose from several languages at the ticket machines.

There is also a Paris Museum Pass. We never bought it but if you are into museums then this might be a good purchase for you.

As in every major tourist city there are con artists and thieves. We didn’t have any problems but when you visit major sights like Sacre Coeur there are men who want to tie a little string aroung your wrist. We never let them but they can be very persistent. The ultimate goal is to bully tourists into paying 10 or more Euro. So just push ahead and don’t stop just to be nice.

And the last and best advise? ENJOY your stay. Have fun!

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Beautiful Sacre Coeur.

Been to Rome… and been a bit disappointed

This is probably not a good to start to a post about Rome – this huge, unbelievable, antique, historic, romantic, la dolce vita Megacity. But I have to admit that all the superlatives that are attached to this city lead me to expect, well, more…

In a lot of ways Rome is just overwhelming and exactly what you would expect or even more than that. The historical, cultural aspect is amazing, fascinating and simply overwhelming. Around every corner, behind every wall, every door there is something old or antique to see and explore – up to a point where it’s actually too much to even register and process… at least for me. I’ve never been to a city so densely packed with historical sites. Even little stones or walls which are just standing there in the middle of the street or on a little corner have some historical background. In other places these little witnesses of time would be prominently displayed and marked with a least a plaque but here in Rome they just go unnoticed because there is so much more and more important stuff to explore. AMAZING!!! Overwhelming!!!

Pantheon

The Pantheons’ cupola. Spectacular architecture!

In this regard Rome most certainly didn’t disappoint. However in my mind Rome isn’t just this historical wonderland but also the city of la dolce vita, amore and sensual living. And in this regard I was totally disappointed. All potentially romantic places are overrun tourists and sellers of all kinds. Of course, I should not complain, because I am one of those tourists myself, who is crowding all those beautiful places. I get that I am part of the problem. Still… It’s the picture in your head, the stories you’ve heard, the movies you’ve watched that lead you to believe that Rome has the certain lifestyle – romantic, sensual, full of life and pleasure. And for me as a tourist, who stayed for only 5 days, it was just not that. It wasn’t even close. My husband and I had problems to even find a remotely quiet and nice place to sit down and just enjoy a few minutes of couple time. But well…

Actually a quiet little hillside park with an breathtaking view of the Colloseum.

Actually a quiet little hillside park with a breathtaking view of the Colosseum.

The food however has me on the edge: you can get totally delicious food, ie. pizza, panini,…, for cheap in little shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants but it’s also nearly impossible to find a real sit-down restaurant that offers good food for an acceptable price. I’m sure they are there, but they are just hard to find when you’re a tourist with no knowledge of Italian and no insider knowledge. Also totally amazing are the bakerys there. They carry those little pastries filled with all kinds of cream for like 50-80 cents a piece. So delicious! So, I enjoyed the take away food, bakery goodies and snooping around the supermarkets to find Italian delicacies and wines. As far as food is concerned it can’t get much better for me… 🙂

Also the place we stayed at was just too cute for words. The B&B Vacanze Romane is a little 4 bedroom B&B situated in an old building in the heart of the city. The subway station was right outside our door. We walked about 10 Minutes to the Colosseum and had plenty of shops, restaurants and supermarkets to choose from. Also the owner is a sweet Italian man who runs the B&B with his family and lives next door. All in all a beautiful and affordable place to stay.

Overall our trip to Rome was breathtaking. I’m still in awe of all those beautiful historical places, silent witnesses of times past. If those stones could talk… I’m also a little disappointed because the sensual, romantic, passionate side of Rome totally passed me by. Still it’s an amazing, majestic and inspiring place to visit and certainly worth a travel.

Beautiful city view from Castel Sant'Angelo.

Beautiful city view from Castel Sant’Angelo.