After a grueling 5 hour 260 mile/420 km drive from Frankfurt, Germany to Hohenschwangau, Germany, near the town of Füssen, located in the southwestern region of Bavaria, bordering Austria, we finally were able to gaze upon the magnificent castles which we had set out to discover – Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwangau. Both just a glorious as all photographs we’d seen prior to arrival. The day was bluebird – not a cloud in the sky to shield the view of these magnificent structures. It was a perfect day, minus the few dozen tour buses on our tail as we walked to the horse-drawn carriage. Luckily, we had beat the crowd and were able to hop on the horse-drawn carriage in a short amount of time and were on our way up the driveway of Neuschwanstein!
Of course, while traveling anywhere, especially in/around the Bavarian Alps, one must be prepared with all essentials, notably your backpack! For us, the Cotopaxi Luzon 18 L Del Dia day pack is a perfect choice to hold everything one needs for this type of travel! Check out Cotopaxi and their gear by CLICKING HERE. Cotopaxi is fine group who use those leftover scraps of fabric to create their wonderful masterpiece jackets, backpacks, and more. Perfect for, well, any type of traveling and proven to be solid products that last even through the harshest elements. They even insulate their jackets using llama fiber – how cool is that?!
Day 2: Departing Hohenschwangau
After a great night’s rest and departing Hohenschwangau, we embarked on the next leg of our journey towards Ramsau, Germany. The beautiful route we took, part of which was via the famous German Alpine Road (Deutschen Alpenstraße), provided us distant views of the beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle resting on the mountain side, as well as the baroque-style church pictured above. Saying goodbye to this region of Bavaria was difficult, however we anticipated with excitement what extraordinary places lay ahead!
The drive to Ramsau took all of 3.5 hrs (140 miles), and took us through towns such as Bad Tolz, Waakirchen, and Miesbach, before reaching the final town of the Deutschen Alpenstraße, being Inzell. Upon reaching Inzell, we continued a short distance further down windy, narrow roads through towering alpine trees until we reached the tucked-away most extraordinary town of Ramsau, Germany (see our blog post “Ramsau“). Ramsau is a village worth an entire blog post!
Below are a few photos of Ramsau, including the seldom witnessed/explored Church of Saint Sebastian.
Ramsau to Lake Königssee
The drive from Ramsau to Lake Königssee is short, a mere 30 minutes to be exact. Lake Königssee (or Königsee) lies a couple of miles south of the town of Berchtesgaden and boasts to be Germany’s deepest and cleanest lake. Most of the lake is within the Berchtesgaden National Park.
To properly experience this Lake and all it offers, one must embark on the electric boat which glides across the water to the baroque-style pilgrimage church of St. Bartholomä, located on a peninsula about halfway down the western lake shore.
Backing up to the electric boat ride: during the approximate 45 minute drift to St. Bartholomä, the guests aboard the vessel will witness the echo-creating rock walls which surround portions of the Lake. “Echo-creating” rock walls which allow for the trumpeter aboard to play his flugelhorn to demonstrate just how “echo-creating” the rock walls really are. The flugelhorn melody reverberates up to seven times! It seems as if there are seven trumpeters, rather than just the one (just an interesting side note).
Another side note/word of caution: due to the steep shore of Lake Königssee, St. Bartholomä and the southern edge can only be reached by boat, or via hiking trails up the surrounding mountains. The only exception to this is during harsh winters when the Lake freezes over – but of course with any frozen lake, caution is advised! Stepping on the frozen Lake, could result in a very, very cold bath, or worse. This happened in 1964 when a motorist thought it might be safe to drive his Volkwagen Beetle across the Lake to reach St. Bartholomä. The Beetle was found in 1997 at a depth of 100 m (330 ft). So, in short – do not walk (or drive) on frozen lakes!
To end our journey in Bavaria, we took a hike along the Konigsee + Obersee , Parque Nacional de Berchtesgaden trail. Such natural beauty surrounding our every step as we ventured into the alpine forest.
Lake Bled, Slovenia is without a doubt at the top of our ‘to-travel’ destinations! Lake Bled is located in the Julian Alps of the Upper Carniolan region of northwestern Slovenia, where it adjoins the town of Bled.
From the moment we entered Slovenia, we were in awe of the natural beauty as well as the Eastern European vibe – something almost otherworldly about this fantastic county existed – it was wonderful!
We arrived in Slovenia via crossing over the northernmost Italy/Slovenia border, which turned out to be somewhat of an other worldly experience – there were no immigration officials, no cameras for security. . . completely opposite from every other border we’ve traversed, especially in Europe! Nothing was in place to check any travelers from moving from one side to the other. Well, nothing but an abandoned immigration control station which looked as if it hadn’t been occupied since 1970.
The route from the small town of Tarvisio, Italy to Rateče, Slovenia then to Lake Bled was absolutely stunning – with antiquity surrounding us, through what appeared to be an endless route of vacant properties and villages.
Here are a few of our favorite photos from the border crossing and Lake Bled. Enjoy!
After such a grueling hike, a much needed relaxation was in order at the lovely Triglav Hotel.
The trains move slow in this area of Slovenia, or don’t come at all . . .
Eat at the Beach Babylon Cafe and Feel Like you Are in Coffee Heaven
The beachy, laid-back vibes at this cozy little cafe on Oriental Parade (one of the “hot-spots” of Welly) make you forget time even exists. Coffee . . . espressos, cappuccinos, anything you need to get your caffeine fix lies here at Beach Babylon. Beach Babylon serves a very hearty brunch, as well as lunch, and when dinner time rolls around, there is a noticeable change that takes place. The atmosphere becomes more sophisticated with dim lighting, creating a romantic ambiance. My favorite dish, which I still crave years later after having dined at this gem – a breast of chicken laying in a creamy coconut sauce, accompanied by a bed of rice also infused with the taste of coconut. And the outdoor seating with views of Wellington harbor make this my favorite spot to soak up the sun’s rays, read a good book, and perhaps do a little people watching along the way.
Go Off-Roading at Red Rocks
I was a little intimidated by the thought of going off-roading, but it turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of our time of living in New Zealand. It was exhilarating for this girl who had never done this before, and despite my initial hesitations, I found myself having fun and laughing the whole time! We bumped along the rocks, our bodies jerking and swaying up and down and all around. At last, we made it through, very strategically, the Devil’s gate – two towering rocks where one had to drive the vehicle just right, or, who knows what might happen. We got stuck a couple of times, but when we made it to the other side, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Our friend was a professional at “off-roading” in New Zealand! We then stopped to admire the famous red rocks and gazed at the rainbow-colored paua shells. If you are feeling adventurous and appreciate geology and history, then take the time to go off-roading at Red Rocks. And hey, we know a guy!
Visit Eastborne – And Eat at a Cafe called “Chocolate Dayz”!
If you haven’t noticed yet, Wellington is THE place for foodies. It is said that Wellington “is crammed with more bars, cafes, and restaurants per capita than New York.” (see article link here). And, I am quite fond of food. Very fond, actually. So when we stumbled upon this beachside cafe in a lesser known suburb of Wellington, we were all for it. I recommend picking a table outside where most of the tables have picture-perfect views of the ocean. This little suburb of Wellington is a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city – if you can ever find you are able to pry yourself away from “the coolest little capital in the world”. The atmosphere here is so peaceful and relaxing, and you sense from everyone around you that they are truly enjoying life – not rushing. The fish ’n’ chips at Chocolate Dayz are so fresh, lightly battered in panko-type style, making it feel “healthy” despite the fact that it is fish ’n’ chips. They were divine is really all I can say! Come here if you want to just unwind, want to hear the sound of the gulls, and want to smell the salty ocean air while you eat delicious and impressionable food.
Bike Ride to Pencarrow Lighthouse
While in Eastbourne, consider taking a scenic bike ride to the breathtakingly beautiful Pencarrow Lighthouse. From Eastbourne, the roundtrip takes approximately 1 1/2 hours by bicycle. The lighthouse stands solitary and greets travelers by the sea as the ships sail into Wellington Harbor. Although not a working lighthouse today, one can imagine what a welcome sight this lighthouse would have been to see when you knew your destination was finally within sight. You can read more about the history here, but one interesting fact from the aforementioned article is that Pencarrow Lighthouse was “the country’s first permanent lighthouse, it was also home to its first and only female lighthouse keeper – Mrs. Mary Jane Bennett.” The bike ride itself is captivating and peaceful and you’ll most likely spot some sheep along the way. The weather in this area is especially unpredictable so be prepared with a rain/wind jacket, and try to go on a day when the wind is calm – at least by Wellington standards!
Useful information – You can rent bikes at the gate in the summer time. [See link here.]
Hike Mount Kaukau
If you love hiking and want to see the city of Wellington spread out like a blanket far below you, then put your boots on and hike up the beautiful Mount Kaukau. Although a little strenuous at times, open fields greet you at the top and you have unrestricted, panoramic views of the city, the vast ocean, views of the Rimutaka Ranges, and, on a clear day, even the South Island! This hike is worth the effort, and you will even get to see the native silver ferns along the way, reminding you that you are indeed in New Zealand, the Land of the Long White Cloud.
A Ship Isn’t Meant to Stay Safe in the Harbor – So Go Sailing!
What better way to see Wellington than to see it from the water? Since Wellington is so windy, this makes for an adventurous time out on the water while sailing in the harbor. The wind is used to our advantage as it fills up the sails and sends us on our way. In our personal experience, we went sailing on what happened to be one of the calmest days ever – as in no wind at all – a rarity in this capital city. We were lucky, in my opinion, because of this, though our captain was disappointed for us, as there were several moments where we were at a standstill. The wind eventually did pick up, however, and it was so peaceful feeling the wind on our faces and smoothly journeying across the harbor. We became a part of the crew as the captain had us each take on a role in letting our boat sail from tacking to jiving. The company we used was Wellington Ocean Sports. They were top-notch and took care of us – the captain was witty and filled with the friendly, Kiwi spirit.
If sailing doesn’t meet your fancy, get out on the water again and feel accomplished by paddling yourself in a kayak along the shoreline of the Oriental Parade. Have I mentioned Oriental Parade is the place to be? As you quietly glide across the water (unless it’s really windy and the waves are choppy, then you won’t really be gliding!) take in the sights of the city’s skyline, brave souls jumping off the docks for sport, fisherman fishing and hoping to find their catch of the day, and sailboats gracefully dancing across the waters. If the sun is out and the weather is calm that day, I would recommend kayaking out to the towering water fountain in the bay, going underneath, and getting soaked. I did this and it was quite exhilarating – and cold!
Located in Lyall Bay is the well-known (to Wellingtonians) Maranui Cafe. Climb up the stairs and be wowed by the colorful, retro decor that is what gives Maranui its character. Be prepared to stand awhile in line, as this place is quite popular, especially on a sunny day. The windows of the cafe give you an outstanding, panoramic view of the ocean and you can watch the planes fly into the airport, ferries arrive from the South Island, and surfers attempting to ride the waves that Lyall Bay is known for. A must eat dish is their “shoestring fries” and signature aioli sauce that accompanies the fries, or “chips”. The hot french fries are thin and crispy, with just the right amount of salt, and, especially when dipped in the aioli, it makes for a delicious appetizer. Sit out on the deck and feel the warm sun on your face as you feel like a local eating at this hot spot!
Stay at the QT Museum Wellington Hotel
We stayed at this hotel while living in Wellington, and it is by far one of my favorite places I’ve ever stayed. When you walk in, you feel like you have stepped into an impressive art gallery. The furnishings are elegant and exquisite. The service was outstanding and the location on the harbor make it so that you cannot go wrong. Their website says it all: “Fall down the rabbit hole into an explosion of colour and texture at Wellington’s new design-driven Hotel, QT Museum Wellington. Our own walls host a curated collection of high and low-brow art sitting in a stunning harbourside location and engulfed by vines of vivid ivy.”
If you want to really feel like you are a part of Wellington, to feel connected to the heart of this city, then take your time and slowly stroll along Oriental Parade. Watch the fisherman casting their lines out into the bay. Watch the city, its people, come alive as they soak up not only the sun’s rays, but life – for life does seem to slow down in this Capital city! People walk their dogs, admire the sailboats bobbing on the water, and laugh as they visit with an old friend on one of the park benches. They enjoy sipping their espressos and eating the delicious gelato you can find here. When you walk along Oriental Parade, there is something magical about it. Even if you are simply visiting Wellington, you will feel like you are a local – truly connected, as you are all enjoying one of life’s most precious gifts – Time.