The great Rochester Castle towers over the city of Rochester, dominating the skyline together with its inseparable twin, the magnificent cathedral. These two buildings have resisted siege and destruction for over 900 years, and are all that remain of this war-battered keep.
On the day I took this picture, it was impossibly cloudy. I drove 2 hours for a sunset photo, only to arrive in the bleakest conditions. To my astonishment, the front passed over the castle grounds just as the sun sank toward the horizon, creating a beautiful rainbow that linked these two ancient buildings together.
I love to explore. I especially love finding off-the-beaten-path locations that tourists rarely visit. Each week, I pick a different destination in England. Sometimes I close my eyes, and place my finger on a map. This week’s lucky winner was the sleepy village of Eye in Suffolk. Covered in cute thatched roofed homes and old churches, this village was straight from a fairy tale. My favorite bit was the church of St Peter and St Paul, pictured here. In this photo, I’m standing on the ruined ramparts of an old Norman Castle. Not much remains of this castle, but it does provide an excellent look-out point over the village.
The town of Eye derives its name from the Old English word for ‘island’ and it is believed that the first settlement on the site would have been almost entirely surrounded by water and marshland formed by the River Dove. In 1781 some workers dug up a lead box containing about 600 Roman gold coins dating to the reigns of Roman Emporers Valens, Valentinian , Gratian, Theodosius, Arcadius, and Honorius from the 4th century. This was the largest hoard of Roman gold coins ever discovered in Britain.
I will admit, Germany was never high on my travel list. I knew I wanted to go – heck, I want to go everywhere – but nothing about it seemed to draw me towards it. But by pure luck, I got stuck in Germany last fall during a Space-A flight back to the states. To pass the time away, I rented a car and traveled around the local area. Heidelberg was my main destination. It was love at first sight – I loved the gorgeous rolling hills covered in pine, the delicious food and very friendly people. Not to mention the castles, history and beautiful architecture! My time in Germany was short, but at this point I knew I needed to go back with Luke.
So in July of this year, we set off for the southern region of Germany, Bavaria.
Highlights from Bavaria
The ski-resort town of Garmisch is a popular destination with Americans. The US Military Resort Edelweiss is located here, and is a short distance to Munich, making it an ideal place to base yourself. We didn’t stay at the resort, but opted for a smaller hotel near town center. We only stayed one night in Garmisch, but the highlight from here was definitely Partnach Gorge – a very narrow, deep gorge that has been cut by a mountain stream. As a girl from the most beautiful area of the world (The Pacific Northwest), I’m hard to impress when it comes to natural beauty. But Partnach took my breath away.
Next up was a quick visit to Munich, considered by many to be the “Beer Capital of the World”. A city rich in culture, history and delicious food, Munich makes itself a city hard to leave. Maybe we will go back someday? The beer in this photo was not for me. But I can proudly say that Luke drank a full liter in one sitting.
The view from the top of St. Peter’s
How can one visit the Bavarian Alps without a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle? Yes, it is the number #1 most visited tourist attraction in Europe, but as I mentioned in my previous post, sometimes the popular ones are popular for good reason. Such is the case with Neuschwanstein, a castle straight from a fairytale, perched perfectly in the mountains. I was obsessed with getting the “right angle” on this castle, which proved to be much more difficult than I imagined. Luke and I must have hiked over 8 miles through unmarked territory, trespassing a few times, to get this shot:
And that concludes our time in southern Germany! Next on the list for later this month … Poland.
Ah, Salzburg – the city most famous for being the birthplace of Mozart, and the filming location for Sound of Music. Everything about this Austrian city is perfect and picturesque: narrow cobbled-stone streets, stunning architecture, friendly locals and delicious food. The more I travel Europe, the more I’ve come to appreciate the smaller moments and memories abroad. Yeah, sure … I enjoy Europe’s big attractions – many are famous for good reason – but I don’t enjoy wading through a sea of tourists. My favorite memories usually involve finding a nice place to eat that is tucked back along some alleyway, and enjoying the local cuisine while soaking up the sounds of a new language. And in this way, Austria did not disappoint. My only regret is that we only spent 1 night here – I think Salzburg deserves a 2-night minimum.
Highlights from Salzburg:
- We hiked up along the outskirts of the old city wall, and just as we reached the top of Mönchsberg an enormous rainstorm swept through. Thankfully we were able to take cover under some umbrellas outside a cozy pub called Die Stadtalm, where locals were scrambling to duck inside. It rained so hard that even the umbrellas couldn’t keep us dry. Despite the wetness, there was something special and romantic about standing with Luke in a rainstorm overlooking the city. Shortly after the storm front passed, the clouds broke and were treated to this spectacle:
City view from Mönchsberg
- We ate dinner at Zwettler’s Stiftskeller, a cozy restaurant centrally located near Mozartplatz in Old Town. I consumed the most exquisite, yet simple spinach dumpling. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Dinner at Zwettler’s Stiftskeller Escaping another rain storm at a street-side cafe
- We went super-touristy and purchased a few Mozartkugels, a chocolaty delight first introduce by local Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst. You can find imitation Mozartkugels on nearly every street corner, but at least we opted for the only place in the world that stills sells hand-made Mozartkugels using the original recipe. You can find these at Cafe Fürst right off Brodgasse in Old Town. As a chocolate lover, I very much approved.
- Lastly, we enjoyed a pleasant stroll through the gardens of Mirabell Palace, which you may recognize as the filming location for the “Do-Re-Me” scene in South of Music
Mirabell Gardens, with Salzburg Castle in the background
I’m not certain we will have time to go back to Austria during our time here (Vienna being the other popular destination), simply because our list is too long and there is much to see. But I’m content with this delicious mini-slice of Austria.
The streets of Barcelona can be quite magical, especially in the ancient Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter). Around every winding, cobbled street corner there is something new to discover – old homes, small boutiques, beautiful churches, and courtyards such as this one pictured below.
It’s easy to get lost, so I can’t say for certain where I found this little gem. But I know it was somewhere between the Catedral de Barcelona and Santa Maria Del Mar. I stopped to take a picture, and a security guard quickly approached me. I was nervous, thinking he was going to shoo me away. Instead, he said “Use tripod, yes. One minute only”. That seemed fair! He clearly did not want me blocking the entryway for too long. I appreciated the reasonableness of his request. Rather than kicking me out before I could take some pictures, he simply requested that I make it quick. I wish other places were staffed by such reasonable people. Thank you, Mr. Security Guard, for letting me take this shot.