A Long Weekend Getaway to Bavaria

A Roadtrip to Allgäu – the Most Beautiful Part of Germany

Last June, when my mom came to visit us in Germany, we took her on a weekend getaway to my most favorite part of Germany – Bavaria. I cannot recommend this place enough. We are talking sprawling green hills so lush they don’t look real, alpine roses cascading from flower boxes, little lakeside restaurants overlooking crystalline water with waitresses wearing dirndls, fairy tale castles and more beer gardens then you can count.

Beautiful Oberstdorf
Well, hello Bavaria!

We decided to visit Allgäu, because good friends of ours had visited and loved the region.  It was a perfect road trip from our town in southern Germany, Esslingen. The easy drive took us about two hours and the area is so gorgeous and full of old fashioned Bavarian charm. Basically, we spent the entire trip gasping at the views, leaping out of the car for photo ops, taking strolls and spending languorous afternoons at cafes in the sunshine.

Beautiful Obersdorf
Seriously, so many ops for gorgeous pictures!

Day 1: We drove to the picaresque town of Oberstdorf, and stopped at the ridiculously beautiful alpine Schwand Hotel for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains covered in pines, a drink and ice cream!

View Alpine Roses
How can this even be real?!
Alpine Hotel
100% pretending I’m in a scene from the children’s classic Heidi!
The Schwand Hotel, Oberstdorf
The Schwand Hotel
We've got a sundae!
Sundae Bavarian Styles! Yeah, I’m also biting Brad’s face.

From there, we hiked to the Freibergsee Lake about a mile away, and had to stop again when we came upon the alpine lakeside restaurant, for a bite and to take in the idyllic views. The waitresses wear drndyls and the place is full of German merrymakers making the most of their summer holidays. I couldn’t get over how lovely and pristine this place was.

Prost! Alpine Lake Styles
Prost Bavarian styles!
Alpine Lakeside Restaurant - Allgau
I mean….look at this view!

We ordered the most delicious salad (I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but southern Germany is NOT known for its tasty salads or veggie meals of any kind really. Honestly, they are non existent, so this was a real win).

Salad at the Freebergsee
OMG this salad – grilled chicken, sauteed mushrooms “fried potato pouches” and a creamy garlic dressing

Day 2: Visit Cinderella’s Castle: AKA Neuschwanstein Castle

Built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1886, this castle is said to be the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and is a total fairy tale come to life. We got our tickets, took a shuttle bus and then walked about ten minutes up to the castle. You can tour the inside if you like, but I think the exterior is the most exciting and the best views are from the hanging bridge, over the valley. The castle, the town, the sweeping views – it is all a Bavarian dream.

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Oh, just Sleeping Beauty’s Perfect Fairytale Castle Nestled in the Bavarian Alps!
Brie & Brad Neuschwanstein
Pretty Romantic Day!
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The View on the Walk to the Castle

After visiting the Castle, we  strolled around Lake Alpsee, and marveled at the clear azure waters and wildflowers. We also enjoyed a beer and sausage in one of the several cafes in the sunshine 🙂 Well, Brad and mom did. I had a Prosecco, per the usual. I just can’t get on board with beer, guys.

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Mom & Brad strolling along the Alpsee

Brie Lake Alpsee

Where to stay: We stayed at an adorable AirBnB cottage in the town of Sonthofen, complete with flower boxes, views of the village and a Cuckoo Clock! It actually scared us all to death in the middle of the night, as it was totally LOUD. The room was spacious, comfy and exactly what we were looking for. We even saw a gentleman in town driving his tractor in lederhosen! Siiigh, I love Bavaria 🙂

Our cottage in Sonthafen
Our AirBnB

Where to eat: We found a very yummy little Greek restaurant in town that we really enjoyed. Staff was super friendly. We also liked cafe Bene Kaffee & Laden for frühstück – German breakfast comprised of various cheeses, breads and spreads – butter, jams, etc.

More photos of the fam in Bavaria 😀

Final thoughts: Bavaria is my most favorite part of Germany, and I think the next time we return to Germany, we will visit again coupled with a hiking trip in Switzerland. I first became intrigued with the area, when a friend visited for a wedding and sent me photos. It looked like she had taken photos in front of a green screen – the rolling hills were so impossibly lush and picturesque. She drank hugos, ate Bavarian goodies and I knew I had to visit immediately. It absolutely did not disappoint!

Exploring the Berlin Xmas Fair

What to expect: A glorious, glittering historical backdrop, live Christmas shows and music, adorable woodland inspired ornaments and all of the gluwein.

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When I Brad and I first stepped into this market we made an audible..oooh!

There are many Christmas Markets to choose from in Berlin, spread out around the city. We chose to stroll the most famous option – the Gendarmenmark in the Mitte district, set in one of Berlin’s most beautiful squares.

20171231_162347This market is smaller and more intimate then the ones that I am used to, and the  backdrop is an absolute showstopper. Also, this market lasts until New Year’s Eve, which is a very fun and festive way to the spend the evening. We stopped by the market before our NYE’s party.

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C’mon….I need this little guy!

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Insert actual angels singing on high

Merry Christmas everyone!

Next up on the blog: A weekend getaway to St. Orres in Gualala – a Russian themed Inn and rustic cabins on the northern California coast.

Exploring the Stuttgart Christmas Fair

What to expect: blocks & blocks filled with whimsical Christmas stalls, German Xmas music, international foods, frosty temps and so much gluwein 😀

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Located in the middle of the city center, and easily accessible by train, the Stuttgart Christmas Fair has a festive, rollicking vibe. This market is sprawling, filled with beautiful stalls selling every Xmas related decoration you could imagine. The food includes the typical German fare – sausages, fries, maultaschen (german dumplings), damfnudle (yeasty sweet roll that is not my favorite) as well as international foods –  langos; Hungarian fried bread covered in your choice of sour cream, cheese and garlic butter (which as mentioned in previous blogs is my fav) pulled pork fries, soups, etc.

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The angels! The glitz! 
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I need this in my home
Stuttgart Xmas Market
Pink Santas!? Come on :D:D

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This year, the market is being on November 27th and ends December 23rd.

Prost!

 

Next up on the blog – general merriment at the Berlin Christmas fair.

My Most Favorite Christmas Market in Germany

The medieval Christmas Market in Esslingen Germany, is my most favorite market. This was my first foray into German Christmas markets and my most beloved.

Located in Southern Germany, about 10 minutes from Stuttgart, this enchanting market is pure winter wonderland magic. It completely transports you to another time and place in history. Strolling the Christmas markets, sipping a mug of steaming plum gluwein as blacksmiths, potters, glassblowers and weavers conjure up the spirit of Christmases long, long ago is the most festive experience.

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We were lucky enough to live in this gorgeous town for eighteen months, and were able to fully enjoy this Christmas market to the max! I was mildly obsessed with it.

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Set in squares winding through the gorgeous old town, surrounded by half timbered houses, the setting could not be more glorious. The market is filled with whimsical, lovingly created stalls selling every Xmas related item you could imagine including – homemade decorations, Merino wool throws, medieval toys and swords, wooden sculptures, liquors in potion bottles, and other gorgeous items. 

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This is the medieval area
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Wreath envy
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Backdrop: the Glockenspiel
Esslingen Xmas Market
How magical is this stall?! 😀

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At various times during the market, fire dancers and Christmas choirs perform. A parade of magical creatures on stilts also makes surprise appearances!

As if this setting wasn’t fantastical enough picture this: a parade of centaurs blowing their woodland horns, and other magical creatures followed by a fairy with gossamer wings on stilts, striding down the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, weaving among the twinkly market stalls under the falling snow.

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Live. Action. Manger! Brad and I visited this guy daily.

Last year my very favorite drink was a decadent plum gluwein sold in the medieval part of the market. The mulled wine is tart, rich and the perfect way to warm you as you wander through the glittering stalls.

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I know what two of the nine signs mean 😀

Because we spent the last two holiday seasons in Germany, and so much time exploring the markets themselves, it feels a little odd not to be there this year. I must say Germans absolutely know how to do Christmas right! If you are a fan of yuletide cheer, I highly recommend planning a trip to the German markets – they are beautiful, whimsical, festive as hell, and will live on in your memories as the most glorious of Christmases.

More Gorgeous Xmas Market Photos to Put You in the Spirit: Heidelberg & Ludswigsburg:

Coming up next on the blog: General merriment at markets in Stuttgart and Berlin.

 

 

 

Germany’s Most Gorgeous Xmas Market

The magical, gorgeous, Ludwigsburg Baroque Xmas Market, located in southwestern Germany is the stuff of which Christmas dreams are made.  I absolutely adore the holidays. I am the type of woman who will purchase her Xmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, so as to prolong the holiday season as long as humanely possible. This year, I did a tour of the German Christmas markets with friends, and I think the Ludwigsburg market was my absolute favorite. Glittering, towering angels with wings in flight literally greet you as you enter this fairy tale of a market. It took my breath away.

To make things even more magical, the first day I visited the market it snowed! Huge, silent, flakes gently swirled around us, dusting our shoulders as we sipped our gluwein and listened to the soft strains of German Christmas music. Situated between two illuminated baroque churches, and surrounded by ornate, pastel colored buildings, the setting is glorious. And as a bonus, the food was fantastic! Typically Xmas market food is not really for me as I don’t eat much sausage or sauerkraut or cream based dishes, but this place had some truly tasty choices.

Pretty much as soon as we arrived, I made a beeline for the langos. I discovered this delicious treat on a trip to Budapest last year, and I have not looked back since. Langos are the fast food of your dreams! This Hungarian street food consists of puffy, fried, steaming hot flat bread, topped with your choice of fillings. I chose garlic butter with cheese – because garlic butter and cheese. Other popular flavors include sour cream, cheese and paprika, or sweet toppings such as Nutella, etc. I fully intend to sample these babies when we head to Budapest for New Years!

During my first trip to Ludwigsburg with my friend Sarah, we also popped (read: ran full tilt) over to the Ludwigsburg Palace, also known as the “Versailles of Swabia.” It’s about a five minute walk from the Xmas market, but the day checked in at about 25 degrees, so we spent a super brief amount of time exploring the grounds. I will say the frigid temperatures and snow meant there was virtually no one out and about, so the palace was atmospheric AF, and really quite glorious. For a moment, it felt like we were in Paris!

I enjoyed the market so much, I returned with Brad yesterday evening. I really wanted to show him the breathtaking angels and the general splendor of the baroque market. (Also  – langos. Obvi. ) Today is the last day of the Xmas markets in our area of Germany, which makes me a little blue, as this is such a gorgeous, festive, truly special time in Germany. But we are headed to Russia and Hungary tomorrow, and I think that will be an incredibly different, exotic, winter wonderland vibe. I am wildly excited, and will post about the markets and our travels as soon as I return.

Nostrovia!

 

Have you been to any Christmas markets? If not, which countries would you like to visit?

 

 

 

 

Exploring Castles and Christmas Markets in Heidelberg

Heidelberg, along with the Allgäu region in southern Bavaria, is one of my most favorite places in Germany. This fairy tale town in southwestern Germany is completely enchanting. Filled with scalloped bridges, a hill top castle that glitters at night, sweeping views at every turn and University charm, Heidelberg is a winner of  a city.

One of my best friends came to visit last week, and during her trip we toured themost fabulous Christmas markets around the area. Heidelberg is a very easy hour and a half hour trip from Esslingen, with one quick connection in Stuttgart, so we took an early morning train and were ready to begin our day in Heidelberg around 10:30am. The Heidelberg Christmas markets are completely magical. Scattered around the Altstadt, touring the markets is a great way to explore and get a feel for the town on the Neckar river and everything it has to offer. I will mention it was a very brisk 30 degrees, so one of the first things we did was choose a tempting traditional looking stall for gluwein! *Spoiler alert – they were all super tempting!

You will see gluwein mentioned many times on this blog, as it is one of the main components that has helped me survive the winter season. It is a mulled wine served in Germany during winter, and made from red wine, boiled with oranges, cinnamon, cloves and sugar. It 100% tastes like Christmas in a cup. There is something very satisfying about sipping a mug of steaming gluwein, as you enjoy the glittering Xmas lights and breathe in the frosty air. There are many different types, my favorite type this year has been plum gluwein, and stalls each provide their own mugs, which you can purchase for 3 euros. Totally worth it. We have about six of them, I believe. My favorites are the mugs that show a picture of the market and include the city name and date. They are great Xmas gifts as well, as many of my friends can attest 🙂

After some strolling and shivering, we headed to the hilltop castle – Schloss Heidelberg. It is a relatively easy, well-marked walk up to the castle, though be warned it is rather steep and provides a nice workout before all the delicious Christmas market treats you should definitely plan to eat afterwards. Built in the early 1200s, the castle is a gorgeous example of well preserved castle ruins. Cost to enter is 7 euros.

After our castle walk,  we returned to the aforementioned Christmas markets and spent the day strolling, sampling delicious snacks, sipping gluwein and seeing the sights. I thought the food was even better than the food at the Esslingen Xmas Market, which is one of my very favorites. We tried the Kartoffelpuffer – a fried potato pancake with a creamy apple sauce, a spicy sausage in a roll with lots of mustard called chiliknacker, red and rosé gluwein.

About this time we were borderline freezing, so we found an adorable, chocolaterie called Café YilliY which was so cozy I almost wanted to die. The cafe even had a pianist! We each had a cannoli filled with a light Nutella cream, and a cup of drinking chocolate. This was served with a cup of steaming hot milk (we were even able to order lactose free milk, which is a rarity in my area of Germany), and a bar of chocolate which you drop into the milk and stir vigorously. It was frothy, lightly sweet and delicious. I had milk chocolate. Sarah ordered vanilla & white chocolate, which is usually not my cup of tea at all, but was really tasty. I think this would be a huge hit at home in California.  I should probably stress this fact – German bakeries tend to add far less sugar to their baked goods, to the point where their treats are borderline savory, so when you find a bakery that serves actual sweet desserts this deserves to be celebrated properly!

Other places I loved in Heidleberg:

Zum Seppl – Last September we visited Heidelberg for our anniversary and loved this University bar so much we went back twice. Built in 1704 and atmospheric as hell, Zum Seppl boasts a live pianist every evening, delicious bar food, and German rollicking charm to spare. The dark wood paneled walls are covered with etchings, pictures and other paraphernalia from former students. On both visits Brad and I shared bowls full of shrimp swimming in a garlic butter wine sauce, with sauteed chilies and sun dried tomatoes, served with a bowl full of hearty German bread. We also sat right next to the pianist as this bar feels up FAST. Great experience.

Philopsher’s Weg: Gorgeous winding path on the northern banks of the Neckar River  through Heidelberg’s Vineyards that offers sweeping views of the river and city. Bonus – the path’s romantic history. It gets its name from the many philosophers, poets and professors who traipsed its path.

I have been to Heidelberg twice – once for an anniversary trip and again for the Christmas Markets. I highly recommend visiting this adorable town on the Neckar River if you have the chance. Have you been to Germany? Do you have any favorite Christmas markets?

 

 

 

Tübingen Chocolate Festival: Sampling our Way Through Germany’s Largest Chocolate Market

Chocolate hedgehogs! Creamy, thick, hot chocolate served with Amaretto! Row upon row of Belgian Chocolates! This weekend, I went to the Chocolate Festival in Tübingen with friends, Germany’s largest chocolate festival, and it was pretty damn wonderful.

Founded in the 1100s, Tübingen is one of Germany’s most idyllic towns. Filled with cobblestone streets, half timbered pastel houses and glittering pine trees during this time of year, Tübingen is a magical place.

Checking in at about 35 degrees, it was definitely a brisk day in Tübingen, which served to enhance the Christmasy vibe. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this festival, but let me tell you, this was some of the most delicious chocolate I have had in my life. The chocolate hedgehogs from a Belgian stall were my absolute whimsical favorite, and I feel could have been perfectly at home in Harry Potter. Every chocolate we tried including the salted caramel truffles and chocolate mousse truffles were divine. The hot chocolate was much creamier  then in the U.S, think the hot chocolate from Chocolat (you know, Johnny Depp’s favorite drink), and served with Amaretto. They also had a stall with a deli display window full of breads, pizzas, salamis, eggs and other deli goods all made from chocolate!

We strolled the town sampling chocolates, and enjoying the buzz of the city. The festival is quite large, set in the main Marketplatz square, and filtering out to other side streets. We explored the castle and took in the beautiful views.

I am going to make this post short and sweet, as a friend of mine from college is visiting and I am desperately trying to get over a hideous cold, so that I can show her a great time in Germany!

The 2019 Festival will be held Dec 3 through Dec 8th.  If at all possible, I recommend visiting this during the week, as it is a very popular festival 🙂 It is an easy hour and a half train ride from Stuttgart.