Stuttgart Adventures

May 20, 2016 at 6:04 pm (Germany)

Contrary to popular belief, I am not always galavanting around Europe.  Granted I do tend to spend a lot of my weekends somewhere if I am not playing hockey.  At the moment this is me just trying to catch up with everyone, so that doesn’t really count as proper travelling if you ask me.  It’s more catching up with friends and enjoying the sunshine.

IMG_1161After returning from my easter trip, Ashley and I finally made it to Hohenzollern Castle.  We decided we wanted to go together months and months ago and it took us ages and ages to finally find a date and get organised.  This castle is the original home of the Hohenzollern dynasty, who were important family in Prussia, the German Empire and Romania.  We were definitely blown away by its fairytale appearance in the mountains and the magnificent views.  However, we were disappointed with the castle itself as we hadn’t done our research thoroughly.  The castle was rebuilt in 1846 – 1867 for the third time as a family memorial.  Thus nobody has ever lived there and it is all for show.  It was a lovely day out with a good friend though.

I had more friends to greet on return to Stuttgart as Anneli and Gregor visited with Anneli’s cousin.  They had decided to take Annika to see Tarzan as her confirmation present.  We had a lovely evening playing TAC and chatting.  The next day we wanted to visit the zoo but as we couldn’t find a carpark we settled for an ice cream overlooking Stuttgart at the famous Pinguin Eis.

With Gudrun I also explored Stuttgart further.  On a glorious day we visited the Stuttgarter Fernsehrturm, which was the first television tower built in the world and the icon of the city.  We walked there from my place and enjoyed the views as it changed from day to night.  The building has only recently been reopened to the public after it was closed for fire safety reasons in 2013.

The next weekend was spent in Marburg visiting friends.  It was really lovely to get back to the city where basically my whole German adventure begun.  I can’t believe it has been seven years since I supervised the exchange from McKinnon Secondary! I split my weekend between visiting the Kaulens and seeing Gwen.  Rabea and I had lots to chat about and of course we made sure to play some Phase 10!  Afterwards I even got to watch Gwen play in her first hockey game for Marburg.  🙂  She has recently moved there to follow her dream of medicine and she certainly seems to have found her feet.  I’m extremely proud of you Gwen!  Her parents and sister also came to the game and we had a lovely dinner together afterwards.  So it was a big catch up all round.  🙂

IMG_1291Generally here in Stuttgart things have been rolling on as per usual.  Hockey is improving since we moved back on to the field but unfortunately no goals or wins to report.  School is smack bam in the middle of Exhibition which is the Grade 5 cumulating project for the PYP Programme.  It does keep me very busy but it is amazing watching the students shine.  The Frühlingsfest has been on and I have been having some great nights out dancing on tables to very dodgy German music.  But most importantly, the sun has started to shine so I am happy again and eating way to much ice cream!

Last weekend was a long weekend and my spread my time wisely between visiting my old flatmate Anselm in Karlsruhe, spending time at home, shopping with my Stuttgart bestie, playing hockey and seeing Simon and Nóra in Tübingen.  It sounds busy but it was actually a really nice packed weekend.

Anselm and I spent the whole day in the sunshine riding bikes around Karlsruhe.  First we went to the Turmberg and then we rode all the way to the banks of the Rhein.  In between we stopped for an absolutely amazing ice cream.  (German’s seriously do the best ice cream after Italy)  For someone who claims he never has time to get out and about, he did a magnificent job of being a tour guide.

I’ve been busy, but I’ve been happy and am still, as always, looking forward to new and exciting adventures.

xoxo

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Dracula, old School Shepherds and one Last European Skiing Adventure!

May 7, 2016 at 5:55 pm (Travel)

IMG_1034This year my Easter holidays had me once again exploring a brand new country.  Suzie and I decided it was about time we went on a random European holiday together and we somehow landed in Romania.  Flights were reasonable, Suzie has a good friend from there and I was fairly romanticised by the idea of visiting Bran Castle, the home of Dracula… fabulous reasons if you ask us.

We started our trip with two nights in Bucharest.  The city certainly has a vibrant nightlife but also lots of interesting history too.  It was amazing seeing communist apartment buildings squished together with 300 year old churches and then a glass and steel office building around the corner.  We took the free walking tour (quite impressed with ourselves that we had managed to see many of the sights just by walking around randomly…) and saw a real mixture of medieval history right through to the communist regime and the rebuilding of Bucharest after its collapse.

IMG_1043Nicolae Ceauşescu (interestingly the last person alongside his wife to be given the death penalty in 1989) certainly left his mark on the city.  He cleared much of the historical centre to build his Piaţa Unirii (Union Plazza).  It definitely is a concrete jungle eating up a huge stretch of land to the Parliament Palace.  He demolished everything in his wake to build the monstrosity, however some old churches and buildings were saved by moving them completely.  They just pulled up the foundations and moved them a few centimeters so they would be out of the firing line.  Sometimes they even did this while the people were still in the building!  Amazing huh?

We had some amazing meals in Romania and Bucharest was no exception.  Suzie dragged me to the most famous tourist restaurant (Caru’ cu bere) our first night and we were treated not only to a great meal but also some lovely ballroom dancing.  It was actually the first beer hall in Romania.  The place was packed 🙂  Our second night we met up with Suzie’s Romanian friend best friend.  Daniel took us out for dinner, drinks and shots and we got our taste for Bucharest nightlife.  Definitely recommended for all you party animals out there!

IMG_1047The next day we picked up our hire car and drove to Brașov in Transylvania.  Suzie was a fabulous chauffeur  and of course I was good for driving napping.  We were surprised to have quite heavy snow on the journey and when we stopped at Peleș Castle it was even more fairytale like with the snow falling.  It was built between 1873 and 1914 by King Carol I and is a fascinating mix of architectures.  It was also the world’s first castle to be powered completely by locally produced electricity and has 30 bathrooms.

We continued our drive to Brașov where we based ourselves for the next three nights.  Between 1141 and 1300 the Hungarian kings initially invited German people to help develop towns and cultivate the area in Transylvania and this influence can definitely still be seen.  The towns, while much more rural and not as developed particularly in the countryside as Germany, were very similar to what I have experienced here in Germany.  Brașov is a lovely town with an interesting history and truly a great place for us to base our travels.

We begun with a visit to Bran Castle, otherwise known as Dracula’s Castle.  Disappointedly, the castle has very little to do with Vlad the Impaler.  I guess this is all part of the tourist industry as Bran Castle is definitely impressive and close enough to go to as a day trip from Bucharest.  Dracula is certainly a drawcard to many people for visiting this part of the world.  The castle was not as impressive as we thought it would be and in hindsight we probably should have visited the inside of Peleș Castle instead.

In the afternoon we took the Brașov free walking tour.  The highlight for me was walking down Strada Sforii, which is the smallest street in Romania and one of the narrowest in Europe. This 80 m long street differs between 111 and 135 cm in width.  At no point can you walk with you hands completely stretched out.  We also met Alex who ended up joining us for our road trip the following day.

IMG_1082Our first stop was to visit the fortified church in Viscri.  There are many fortified churches in the area but this is one of the best kept ones.  The church is completely fortified with huge thick walls and is a UNSECO World Heritage Site.  In summer the town is a Romanian heritage craft  centre, which we were disappointed to miss but just the road out to the town was worth the trip.  We really got a taste as to how underdeveloped this area of Europe is.  Some highlights included a horse and cart pulling the cargo of a dead horse and real life old school shepherds.  Sometimes even dressed exactly how you would imagine to have been years and years ago.  I haven’t seen people shepherding in many parts of Europe during my travels at all, but in Romania it was quite a common sight to see.

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IMG_1089We continued on to Sibiu, a fortified town on the Cibin river.  This town was the European Capital City of Culture in 2007 and it was easy to see why.  The old town is fortified and many of the old wall towers are still in existence.  We strolled around the city walls and just lapped up the medieval charm.  I particularly liked the Stairs Passage, built to keep the students warm in winter on their way up to school in the citadel.

For our last day, we visited the Village Museum, which had been recommended by lots of people.  We had wonderful sunshine for the open air museum.  There are around 300 traditional buildings, including churches, workshops and even cellars!  There were also lots of examples of furniture, clothing and pottery.  It was amazing how different each of the regions of Romania built their houses.  You could definitely see diversity and how they had adapted their buildings to accommodate both the landscape and materials available.  Our favourite houses where the partly underground houses that looked like something out of the Hobbit.  One of the exemplars had been lived in right up until the 1980s, which was truly quite amazing.

IMG_1116All good things must come to an end, so Suzie and I said our goodbyes and I headed back to Germany… of course not for long.  After one night in Heidelberg, Danny and I headed to Austria for one last European skiing trip.  It was coming towards the end of the season at Nauders but we still had some great skiing, particularly on our last day where we skied in absolute sunshine.

We even went to Italy one night just for dinner!  The restaurant was on the banks of the Lago di Resia (Lake Reschen) and we could even see the famous bell tower!  In 1939 the fascist government decided to dam the lake at 22 m and as a result many towns were simply flooded in the process.  In fact, 70% of the population were forced to emigrate or move away.  The bell tower is all that is left of the original town of Graun and originates from the 14th century.  Unfortunately the water surrounding the bell tower was not frozen over as you can actually reach the bell tower on foot.  It was still an absolutely majestic sight particularly because of the sad story that accompanies it.

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xoxo

P.s  More photos?

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