Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wurzburg, Germany: A Travel Recommendation

Wurzburg, Germany is a stop along the Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse) and by far my favorite of the cities. I would recommend it as a day trip or even for a night. It's a university town situated along the picturesque River Main with a beautiful castle/residence on a hill to gaze at - day and night. We stopped at the gorgeous town on our way to Munich for Oktoberfest and what a choice!

The town itself has many beautiful churches (free for viewing, like most in Germany - you take this for granted when you go to another country, such as Spain). The Residence, situated on the other side of the River Main is just gorgeous from the outside (we did not have enough time to go in). Picture it - on a hill, over a river, vineyards below - simply perfection! The town itself is known for it's wine in funny-shaped bottles. History claims the monks shaped the bottles in such a way that they could fit it under the cloaks and sneak it anywhere/everywhere! There are also many cute walking areas and a daily market, which at the time we were there offered fresh pfefferlingen and stein pilz (local mushrooms that are delicious) - my favorite!

Other cities along the Romantic Road include Rothenburg ob der Tauber (a VERY cute, must-see, Christmas town, but would not recommend more than an afternoon here), Augusburg (near the end of the Romantic Road - cute, but nothing too special), Dinkelsbuhl, and Nordlingen, neither of which I have visited... yet.

Alte Mainbrucke
the Residence on the River Main
Alte Mainbrucke
most famous statue on the bridge - the Madonna

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stockholm, Sweden: A Travel Recommendation

Stockholm, Stockholm, where to begin? Probably by stating it is by far the cleanest, most eco-friendly big city I've been to, and that's my kind of place! There is lots and lots to do for the weekend visitor.

While Swedish may be hard to learn.. and hear... and understand.. and read (NO, you cannot just pick it up), Stockholm is a very international city and the people there seem to speak better English than me! They do operate on the kroner which is about a 10 to 1 ratio to the euro. The city itself is a bit expensive, but still definitely a worthy weekend trip.

Must do: Walk/get lost/stroll leisurely through Old Town/Gamla Stan (one of Stockholm's adorable 14 islands with tons of restaurants, cafes, shopping, and great picture taking spots!), stop at one of Stockholm's many cafes for their beverage of choice (everyone is drinking coffee & socializing at all times of the day - my favoriteeee!!), take an archipelago tour through a few of the 24,000 islands, and visit one or a few of the many museums there (Vasamuseet has the biggest name, hosting some 400+ year old sunken ship).

Must eat: You will see your fair share of Swedish joints (meatballs, salted fish - oh yum!), but with Stockholm being such a large international city, there are innumerable international restaurants - chinese, japanese, indonesian, italian, german, and more. More importantly, eat a Swedish Chocolate Ball (chokladboll) all day/every day/at every cafe you stop at or even pass. They are simply fabulous. Imagine this: a ball of fudge/brownie mixture that is super, super moist rolled in just the right amount of coconut (don't worry, it's not too coconut-y). Trust me, you will thank me.

Where to Stay: We stayed at the Scandic Sergel Plaza which was very nice with a good breakfast included, and most importantly, in the best location. It was a little on the pricier side (for us), but we needed a triple room, so it worked. Staying in the middle of one of the central islands was key for seeing as much as possible, BUT I did read that public transportation (there are metro stops everywhere) was very efficient there, we just didn't need to use it.

RyanAir flies an hour outside of the city (Skavsta Airport) for very cheap (our flights were 5 euros total). There is a bus that runs from the Airport to the City for the equivalent of $15. Keep in mind when booking that the airport is an hour outside of the city - you don't want to have to leave at 3 in the morning to get to the airport on time for your 6 am flight (like Alex did!).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


We recently took a trip to Stockholm, home of one of Europe's Absolut Ice Bars. While entrance was quite expensive and the temperature read -5C, we just had to go. Luckily, we all had beer blankets AND parkas (supplied by the bar), helping us to survive.

Turns out, the idea of the bar was very cool - everything was ice, including the cups and the bar, however, it was overpriced. The bar was small and like I said, -5C. I mean, how long do you want to stay at a bar if it's -5C, even if you pay a cover??? For us, about an hour, and that was pushing it. Glad we went once, but that kind of cold is just not for me. The Absolut Ice Bar was a one time thing.

In our parkas
Eskimo kisses

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Toledo, Spain: A Travel Recommendation

As per Rick Steve's request, we took a side trip from Madrid to the historic town of Toledo, Spain. While it would have been a great 2-3 hour side trip that I would recommend to all, not so much for 3+ hours. Of course, with our lack of planning this trip (unusual for us), our trip didn't go according to plan.

This was the first trip where we did not look at train times in advance, figuring out when we needed to get there and buy tickets (since we had not already purchased them - mistake). We went to bed the night before and decided to try to leave at 10am. At 10:15, we get on the metro heading toward the train station. When we get to the train station (since we were unorganized and had not already purchased tickets), we search for the machines to sell us tickets (the act of buying tickets on the machine takes all of 2 minutes). After trying multiple ticket machines, we were still left without tickets. Turns out, we could NOT get tickets to Toledo on the ticket-dispensing machines - weird? So I ask a man at the train station, in Spanish for he speaks no English, if we have to buy them at the ticket office (where 57 people are in line in front of us). Unfortunately, yes. We take a number and wait... and wait... and wait.. An hour later, we have tickets, but have to sit and wait another our for the train (again, we should have planned this in advance and saved all the wasted time). The other bad news is, with the train times, our only option is to spend 5 hours there which I know is going to be a bit much (and alas, I was correct). Oh well. After some lunch, beers, and time-wasting, we finally get on the train to Toledo.

Toledo itself is very stereotypical small city Spain, at least in my eyes. All the buildings are sand colored & ancient. There is not a ton to see/do there. I enjoyed walking around aimlessly without a map in the small winding streets lined with interesting architecture, just seeing what you see. Other things to see/do include the Cathedral, the Alcazar, the Synagogue, and most importantly, the San Martin Bridge over the River Tagus (which was gorgeous).

While I would recommend taking a side trip to Toledo if you have a few days in Madrid, I would not recommend staying for more than 3 hours.. OR not planning your trip out in advance (knowing the train times and pre-purchasing your tickets is a must). Toledo is the perfect 2-3 hour small town break from the busy big-city life of Madrid.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Are You There, PETA? It's Me, Madrid

Cruel. Unusual. Unfair. Bloody. What am I talking about? A Spanish Bull Fight.

After hearing raves about how awesome a bull fight was, we bought tickets for the four of us to see a bull fight in Madrid. Mistake.

We spend the day in Toledo, but hurry back to get to Plaza de Toros, where the bull fight would be taking place. We're late. While we at first thing this is a big deal, after seeing the ongoing bull fight on the television at the bar in the Plaza, we soon realize this is not a big deal, not a big deal at all. Why? It was sick. ONE unarmed, sick bull armed with nothing but his own strength (or lack there of because they slowly injure him throughout the fight to make it easier on themselves) vs. 6 or so matadors (also known as cowards) armed with swords and sneak passage ways to escape the bulls if they get to close - not to mention, they don't just do this with ONE bull.. try lots.

For the 10 minutes we were there (we left early for NONE were entertained in the slightest - disgusted would be the better word), we all four rooted for the bull hoping he would horn one of the coward matadors and I managed to cry two or three times. Never again. Nor will I ever recommend anyone to attend a legit bull fight - it is nothing but a cruel, unfair fight for (too many) unfit bulls.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Now That's Dedication

It's that time of year again...College Football Season! With the time difference, we had a difficult time watching our games last year. Staying up all night just didn't work. Halfway through the first quarter, we'd both be out on the couch. This year, we have a new plan and so far (one game in), it's worked!

Go to bed at 8pm. Wake up at 2am, in time to watch the game. Drink coffee, tea, and eat homemade waffles soaked in sugar to keep us up! Back to bed at 5:30/6. Up at 6:30 to drive the license-less one to work. Well, that's how the schedule went this morning at least and it was perfect, minus the outcome of the game. We got to watch the entire, please don't mention the winner and/or score, game. At least we stayed up for a great game (minus the loss).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Weinfest der Mittelmosel

Along with being one of my very favorite German cities, Bernkastel throws one of the best wine festivals around. On the first weekend of September, about 30 different local wine booths set up for tastings (mainly Riesling). There are also German food booths (serving wurst, pommes, reibekuchen, cheese pretzels, flammkuchen, knoblauch champignons, etc), and even fireworks! We headed to the festival on Samstag with Matt and Laura and had too great of a time!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Eintracht Trier!

Over the weekend, Matt (A's best friend from med school) & Laura came to visit to celebrate Labor Day... In Germany... where it does not exist. On Saturday, we went down to the city to my favorite coffee/breakfast (secret) spot and then onto the Trier Soccer game. While they are not in a great league, it was a nice day out for a game and fun to see all the locals get into it.

At my favorite coffee shop - crackinggggg up, obviously
Matt, Casey, Alex - Trier v. Dusseldorf Soccer Game

Trier Moselstadion