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Salzburg, the City of Mozart

Posted December 5, 2014 By admin


Mountain view of Salzburg on the way to Hohensalzburg Fortress.

August 12, 2014

We left our Fussen accommodations and boarded an 8 a.m. train for Salzburg. After a short stop in Munich, we arrived around noon in Austria’s fourth largest city of 150,000 residents. Right outside the train station, we conveniently jumped on a bus, which took us within walking distance of our lodging.

After we checked in, we were off to explore the city of Mozart and the “Sound of Music”. We began by walking over one of the several bridges that crossed the brown rushing waters of the Salzach River. The city was filled with excitement and music. It was the height of the Salzburg Music Festival, which ran from late July to the end of August.

Dan led us on a tour through Old Town Salzburg, which included a climb to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. The fortress, which sat atop Monchsberg Mountain, was built in 1077 and was the largest, fully preserved fortress in central Europe. It served as a fortification, a military barracks, prison and temporary residence of the prince archbishops for many years. Now the fortress is open to the public year round and serves as an impressive setting for concerts and city events.

We started our journey to the fortress by riding the Monchsberg lift (elevator) 1700 feet straight up through mountain rock. When the doors opened at the top, the panoramic view of the city was magnificent. We hiked along paved wooded paths that passed by an abbey, villas, and green meadows dotted with farmhouses. Medieval city walls, dating back to1470 escorted us to Hohensalzburg Fortress.

The fortress courtyard was huge and served as the main square for some 1,000 medieval residents. It was where they set up shop and sold their goods making the fortress a self-sufficient community. We walked around the grounds and explored the fortress chapel. Our most memorable experience was our climb up the Reck watchtower to the highest point of the fortress. From this vantage point, on one side we could see a magnificent view of the Alps and on the other side a great panoramic view of Salzburg.   

When our fortress tour was over, instead of hiking back to the city we rode down on the funicular (cable) railway. We reached Old Town and walked by several Salzburg Music Festival venues. We saw everything from performing artists on street corners to concerts shown on large open-air screens. In Residence Square, we spotted several horse carriages where beautiful stallions standing all in a row waited to show off their charming city. After admiring them, Kevin treated us to a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic city center. It was a great way to end our busy day.

Bis spater,



Dan and Kevin strike a pose on a bridge over the Salzach River.


Mountain view of Salzburg with the fortress in the distance.


A view of the Salzach River winding through beautiful Salzburg.


A view of Salzburg from Monchsberg Mountain.


We pass by a villa on the way to Hohensalzburg Fortress.


Rodge, Dan and Kevin admire their surroundings.


Medieval city walls dating back to 1470.


Hohensalzburg Fortress.


Kathy approaching the fortress.


A view of Salzburg from the fortress.


A view of the Salzburg Cathedral from the fortress.


A view from the fortress tower.


A view of the Alps from the fortress tower.


Distant views of green meadows dotted with farm houses.


City of Salzburg viewed from the fortress tower.


A view from the fortress tower.

Residence Square with its ornate fountain.


Horses waiting patiently in Residence Square.


Horses eager to show off their beautiful city.


A musician serenades us by the Mozart statue.


In celebration of the Salzburg Music Festival, a Violinist plays in Mozart Square.


We are entertained by Salzburg Music Festival musicians.



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Fairy-tales Castles in Picturesque Bavaria.

Posted November 19, 2014 By admin


King Ludwig’s fairy-tale castle, Neuschwanstein.


 August 11, 2014

After a hearty breakfast and several cups of coffee, we headed to the train station. It was time to say goodbye to Munich and head south to the small town of Fussen, located at the foot of the Bavarian Alps. We arrived in Fussen at 10 a.m. and walked to Hotel Sonne, our lodging for the night. We had only a few minutes to check in and drop off our bags because we had a bus to catch at 11 a.m. We were on our way to tour King Ludwig’s fairy-tale castle, Neuschwanstein.

King Ludwig inherited the throne of Bavaria in 1864 at the age of eighteen and two years later started building his castle. To execute his dream project, he commissioned a stage designer and several engineers as architects. It took seventeen years to build and Ludwig only lived in it six short months before he died at the age of forty. With only a third of the interior finished, it was opened to the public seven weeks after his death.

We arrived in the tiny town of Hohenschwangau where we picked up our tour tickets. It was a cold rainy day but we were ready to make the best of it. Our tour started at 2 p.m. so we had an hour to get to the castle. We could either take a shuttle or walk. We opted for the moderately steep 30-minute hike because the shuttle line was super long. As we climbed along paved road through the forest, horse drawn carriages full of families passed us on their way to the castle.

The rain held off until we arrived outside the castle, then the heavens opened up and a downpour followed. We were able seek refuge under a castle archway until it was time for our tour. The outside of the castle looked stunning with walls covered with a veneer of  limestone and beautiful towers and spires that rose to the sky. I could see why Walt Disney used Neuschwanstein Castle as an inspiration for his Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland.

Our 15-room tour of the castle was amazing. We walked through ballrooms, bedrooms, formal dining rooms, servant areas and a very modern kitchen. Our tour guide filled us in on the history and what life was like in the castle in the late 1800’s. The inside was filled with magnificent architecture, frescos, paintings, carved works, mosaics, furniture and decorations. King Ludwig was a big fan of Richard Wagner and surrounded himself with paintings of characters and events from Wagner’s operas.

Although built in the 1870’s, the castle was equipped with all kinds of technical conveniences, which were very modern, if not revolutionary at that time. It was equipped with running water throughout, including flush toilets and hot water in the kitchen and baths, and had a forced-air central heating system. An elevator from the kitchen three stories below serviced the dining room. King Ludwig even made sure the castle was connected to telephone lines, even though at the time of its construction very few people had telephones. Truly amazing!

After our tour, we hopped on a bus and rode back to our hotel in Fussen. That night as we dined on our pizza at Ristorante La Perla we reflected on our day and the magnificence of King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle!

Bis spater,



A Bavarian restaurant in the quaint town of Fussen.


Hohenschwangau Castle, King Ludwig’s boyhood home.


A roadside view of Neuschwanstein Castle.


Neuschwanstein Castle.


Near the entrance to Neuschwanstein Castle.


One of the castle towers.


A view from the castle.




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Beamers and Boards in Munich!

Posted November 5, 2014 By admin


The BMW corporate headquarters located north of Munich.


August 10, 2014

We started our second day in Munich by jumping on the U-Bahn (subway). We were on our way to the BMW Complex located north of Munich. The complex consisted of the corporate headquarters, the BMW Museum, BMW Welt(World) and the BMW Munich Plant.

When we exited the subway station, we were in front of a cloud-shaped glass and steel building.The spectacular modern structure was the BMW Welt. We entered the impressive high tech building and were immediately entertained by a stuntman zipping around on a motorcycle. The spacious building displayed all of the newest BMW motorcycles and cars.

On our walk through the building, we marveled at new Mini Coopers, Rolls Royce and electric cars. We got a chance to sit in some of the models and dream. I personally enjoyed sitting on the decked out, high tech motorbikes. Along with exhibiting the latest and greatest BMW had to offer, the Welt served as a delivery area. Up to 160 daily customers received their brand new BMWs there.

Our next stop was the BMW Museum, which charted the history of the car company. Founded in 1916, BMW built airplane engines. In 1923, they started manufacturing motorbikes and eventually in 1928, they moved forward with the production of cars. Shortly after WW II, the Allied Forces dismantled BMW’s factories and the company was only allowed to manufacture household utensils and bicycles. In 1950, BMW returned to the production of cars.  

For the next hour we strolled by exhibits of airplane engines, cars and motorcycles from 1916 to the present. It was interesting to see the first BMW that looked like a delivery truck, evolve over the years into a high tech, sleek glossy car. While we were there, the museum was having a Rolls Royce exhibit, which displayed antique and modern models. After walking through years of history, we decided to jump on the U-Bahn and head to the English Garden.

The English Garden is a 900-acre public park in the center of Munich. It is one of the world’s largest urban parks and stretches from the city center to the northeastern city limits. The park, created in 1789 is named for the English style of landscape gardening. Along with a beautiful lake, the park main attractions include two beer gardens, a Chinese Pagoda, a Japanese teahouse and a Greek-style temple. 

After lunch, we entered the sprawling park filled with acres of open space, shaded woodlands, streams, lakes and footpaths that followed along the river or through the countryside. It was a beautiful, tranquil place to spend the afternoon. The park was full of people cycling, jogging, swimming, paddle boating on the lake, sunbathing, and enjoying horse drawn carriage rides. On our walk, we came upon the Chinesischer Turm beer garden. We were surprised to see a pagoda-style Chinese tower there. The all-wooden structure was five stories tall and outfitted with a German oompah band playing foot stomping music. We walked around the beer garden but didn’t imbibe or chow down because we were on a mission to find some river surfers. 

There aren’t many places in the world where one can find World-Class river surfing, except right in the middle of the English Garden. Munich was the birthplace of river surfing and has been the center of surfboard riding on stationary waves since the early-1970s. The wave, which reaches a height of two meters, was created by concrete slabs that were placed on the riverbed in the 1970s to weaken the rivers flow. We watched barefooted surfers in wetsuits line up along the bank taking turns entering the water with their boards. Surfs up river shredders! Who needs a gigantic ocean wave to Hang Ten?

Bis spater,



Kathy styling on a new motorbike.


A decked out BMW with wings?


One of the first BMW cars.


A 1930’s BMW Teile in Eile.


Kevin checks out a row of vintage BMWs!


A vintage Rolls Royce.


Another vintage Rolls Royce.


A sleek sweet 1956 Beamer.


Another classic BMW.


Apple strudel a la mode.


Chinesischer Turm beer garden in the English Garden.


River surfing on the Eisbach River. Hang Ten?



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Hop-on Hop-off in Munich

Posted October 29, 2014 By admin


Munich’s world-famous beer hall, Hofbrauhaus.

August 9, 2014

Our hotel was close to a big transportation hub with the main bus station, train station and a subway station within a fifteen-minute walk. We decided to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. From the open double-decker bus, we were able to see main attractions as well as hop on and hop off at conveniently located stops around the city. Our guide pointed out historic galleries, churches, palaces and museums. It was a great way to get the lay of the land and basic information on some of the sights.

We hopped off at the Marienplatz, the heart of the city of Munich. The main historical square, full of grand buildings, great shops and outdoor cafes was bustling with people on a mission. I was very impressed with the bicycle friendly city and the rows and rows of bike racks everywhere. We were once again entertained by a mime standing atop a pedestal.

One of the first buildings that caught my eye was the New Town Hall with its world famous glockenspiel. The 300-foot long ornate building with hundreds of statues, turrets and arches looked like something out of the Middle Ages but was constructed between 1867 and 1909. Unlike many building in the area, it survived the bombs of World War II and served as a home to the city government and the Munich Tourism Office.

On our walk, we discovered Holy Ghost Church. The Gothic “Hall Church” was holding a summertime “Garden of Eden” display. Inside it was decorated with trees, bushes, flowers and an origami display of white doves suspended from the ceiling. It was a beautiful sight.

Since we were in the heart of Munich we had to explore the world-famous beer hall, Hofbrauhaus. It started out as a brewery, but in 1808, the brewery moved out and a 5,000-seat food and beer palace was built in its place. When we walked into the packed hall, it was standing room only. We wandered around and absorbed the ambiance of the grand hall. The beautifully painted arched ceilings and dark wood paneling on the lower walls dominated the room. Long wooden tables full of lively people downing beer and munching on Bavarian cuisine surrounded us. Servers dressed in traditional attire, zigzagged their way through the crowds with liter-steins of overflowing beer. We worked our way to the top floor where we found another huge beer hall, but it was not open for business. Its walls were covered with historical pictures, old menus and other memorabilia. I was happy we got to spend time in this great treasure, which was an essential part of Bavarian history and culture.

After lunch, we had one more place to visit, the Residenz. The Munich Residenz was the former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs of the House of Wittelsbach from 1385 to 1918 and was the largest city palace in Germany. It was officially opened to the public in 1920. During World War II, the Residenz was destroyed but many of the masterpieces inside were moved to safety before the bombs hit the palace. Restoration began in 1945, and most of the rooms were reconstructed by the 1980s.  

We started our walk through the 120-room residence; the first area we discovered was the Shell Grotto. This unusual display was built with fresh water shells in the 1580’s with a golden statue of Mercury as the centerpiece. The walls were covered in fish, mermaids, pots of flowers, and baskets of fruit all made of shells.

One of my favorite attractions was the Antiquarium. When I walked into the massive hall, I was captivated by the immense 66-meter long room. The ceilings and vaults above the windows were decorated with fresco paintings while sculptures and busts were lined along both sides of the walls. It was the oldest room in the Residenz complex and was built between 1568 and 1571 by Duke Albrecht V for his collection of antique sculptures. It was a wonderful place to sit and view works of art hundreds of years old.

On the upper floor, we were able to see the Wittelsbach’s lavish private apartments, banquet halls and ornate chapels. As we walked by room after room, we were taken back to past times when rulers lived in gilded Bavarian grandeur. Over the centuries, the Wittelsbachs amassed important collections of porcelain, silver, paintings and miniatures. Treasures of bronze sculptures, magnificent tapestries, rare furniture, candelabra and chandeliers were also collected. All of these could be viewed in over ninety rooms throughout the Residenz.

After walking around the grand palace for three hours, we were exhausted and had overdosed on opulence. It was time to hop on the bus and head to the beer garden for dinner.

Bis spater,



Exploring the heart of Munich.


Dan and Kevin strolling through Munich.


The New Town Hall located in the Marienplatz.


The ornate tower on the Old Town Hall.


A mime entertaining in Munich’s Marienplatz.


“Garden of Eden” display in the Holy Ghost Church.


Mermaids made out of shells in the Shell Grotto.


A golden statue of Mercury in the Shell Grotto.


The sixty-six meter long Antiquarium.


The massive ornate Antiquarium.


Imperial Hall in the Residenz.


Antique furniture in the rulers lavish apartments.


A grand hallway in the Residenz.


Part of an antique plate collection.


The Ornate Chapel.


The barrel vaulted ceiling of the Ornate Chapel.



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Munich, Here We Come!

Posted October 6, 2014 By admin


Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas museum and store.

August 8, 2014
Our goal for the morning was to explore more of the town and shop. We had until 12:50 p.m. before we had to catch the Romantic Road bus to Munich. As we approached a Rothenburg street corner, we saw a gold statue drawing a lot of attention. When it started moving, we realized it was a mime. We stood watching for a while and then moseyed on.

We discovered Rothenburg’s largest church, St. Jakob’s. The Lutheran Church, built between 1311-1484, was a great example of Gothic architecture with its high arched ceilings, stone pillars and towers. Inside, the church had wonderful woodcarvings and beautiful stain glass windows. St. Jakob’s high alter; also called the Twelve Apostles Alter was considered to be the finest in all Germany. After exploring the church, I sat in the main hall and took in all the beauty and reverence around me. The sunlight shone through the stained glass windows and bathed the alter in color. It was a lovely place to rest and reflect.

Dan and Kevin were on a mission to shop for cuckoo clocks and beer steins. After exploring several stores, they discovered a wonderful little shop and found the gifts they were looking for. After they finished shopping, we had just enough time to return to our hotel, grab our luggage and hoof it to the bus station to catch the Romantic Road bus.  

We boarded the tour bus and readied ourselves for a five-hour ride to Munich. The bus was half-full and we had plenty of room to move around. Our gregarious driver greeted us, made sure all were accounted for and then started on our journey. Germany’s Romantic Road was a trade route during the middle ages and ran from Frankfurt south to Fussen, near the Austrian border.

We traveled by beautiful pastoral countryside with small medieval towns tucked in between. The driver provided several opportunities for us to depart the bus for a few minutes and explore some of the towns. It was a long but enjoyable ride with the bus driver providing commentary on things of interest. When we arrived in Munich, we walked twenty minutes to our hotel. After getting situated, we headed to a neighborhood beer garden for supper. Sausage, French fries, German potato salad, pretzels and beer were on the menu.

Bis spater,



A mime standing on a Rothenburg corner.


The high alter of St. Jacob’s Church.


A Rothenburg store window full of collectables.


Rodge and Mr. Nutcracker.


A bear entertaining us from a toy store window.


A store window full of steins.


The German countryside along the Romantic Road.


The guys drinking dinner in a Munich Beer Garden.


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Rothenburg ob de Tauber

Posted September 25, 2014 By admin


The sun setting over Rothenburg.


August 7, 2014


We started our day by catching an 8:30 a.m. train to Rothenburg ob de Tauber(on the Tauber River). After an hour wait at our first stop in the town of Mainz and then train changes in two other towns we arrived in Rothenburg at 3 p.m. Rothenburg, located halfway between Frankfurt and Munich, is Germany’s best-preserved walled town with original buildings dating from the Middle ages.

We entered the city from the East through the Röder Tower Gate, which dates back to 1380. Standing inside the walled city, I felt like I had stepped back in time. Buildings decorated with flower-filled window boxes lined narrow cobblestone streets. Half-timbered old houses were topped with red tile roofs. I couldn’t wait to explore this medieval town but first we had to find our lodging for the night.

After dropping off our luggage at Kreuzerhof Hotel, we headed back into the center of town, and decided to take a walk atop the town wall. The massive stonewall and its forty-two towers were built during the 13th century. As the town grew, the wall had to be extended three times and is now about 1.5 miles long. We accessed the wall by climbing some stairs near one of the towers.

The walkway, protected by the cover of a wooden roof area erected over the wall, provided stunning panoramic views of the town. I looked down on red roofed buildings and spotted church steeples and towers in the distance. Along the fringe of the wall, I saw buildings and homes that were great examples of medieval architecture and got glimpses into backyards and beautiful gardens.

From the height of the thirty-foot wall, I was able to see the maze of lanes and alleyways that weaved between the buildings. Some parts of the wall were tight to fit through and the roof was so low in some places Rodge had to duck. The stonewall made of limestone, quarry, and sandstone rocks were full of arrow slots, used to defend the city within from attacking enemies.

Unfortunately, sections of the wall (mostly the eastern part) were destroyed by American bombs during World War II. The damaged walls were completely rebuilt in twenty years with worldwide donations. The entire length of the wall was covered in plaques that identified donors who supported rebuilding the wall.

After dinner, we went on one of the most popular tours in Rothenburg, the Night Watchman’s Tour. We arrived in Market Square at 8 p.m. and were greeted by the Night Watchman decked out in a black cape and tricorn hat. For forty minutes, we strolled through the town and listened to his informative stories full of history and dry humor. It was an entertaining way to learn about Medieval Rothenburg and its people.

Bis spater,



Rodge and Kevin explore Rothenburg.


Buildings decorated with flower-filled window boxes.


The Town Hall in the Market Square.


The Town Councillor’s Tavern with many ornate clocks.


One of Rothenburg’s original medieval gates.


A stairway that climbs up to the town wall.


Rodge and Kevin walk along the town wall.


The rooftops of Rothenburg seen from the town wall.


A view of St. Jakob’s church with its two towers rising towards the sky.


A town wall view of Rothenburg with a tower in the distance.


“Old Forge” was once a blacksmith’s forge but now it is privately owned.


Homes along the town wall.


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Cruising Down the Rhine!

Posted September 9, 2014 By admin


Stahleck Castle towering above the Rhine River.


August 6, 2014


We all awoke to a gorgeous sunny day and were looking forward to our cruise down the Rhine. Before leaving our hotel, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast included in the stay. It was set up in a private dining room and included breads, meats, cheeses, fruit, eggs, cereals, spreads, juices, tea, and coffee.

At 10:30 a.m., we boarded our K-D line boat and headed to the top deck. We were ready to take in castle views and picturesque German towns along the waterfront. Most Rhine castles dated back to the Middle Ages. Some were built to protect settlements, and others were residences of kings. Many were “robber baron” castles built by rulers to levy tolls on passing river traffic.

When the boat pulled away from the dock, our first view was of Stahleck Castle, sitting stately on the hill above Bacharach. As we cruised down the fast moving river, the boat pulled into a different town every fifteen minutes to pick up or drop off passengers. Ships and huge barges loaded with cargo passed by.

The spires of medieval churches and historic castles appeared around every river bend. Steep vineyards climbed up lush, green hillsides. My camera was shooting nonstop to capture all of the magnificent views. It was a magical time sailing through the Rhine River Gorge.

 After a two-hour ride, we arrived at our destination, the quaint town of Braubach. Here we toured the Marksburg Castle, the only medieval castle on the Rhine, which had never been destroyed or conquered. The castle, located on a hill over-looking the town, required a twenty-minute uphill hike from the town center. When we reached the 800-year-old fortress, we joined a tour.  

The castle was built primarily for defense, rather than as a residence for a noble family. The interior was spartan, with Medieval Age décor. Most of the rooms were outfitted with period furniture and equipment much as they would have been when the castle was in use. The narrow hallways of the castle escorted us into the kitchen, dining hall, bed chambers, blacksmith’s workshop, cathedral, armory, wine cellar and torture chamber.

Outside we toured the gothic gardens full of herbs used for cooking, medicine and witchcraft. Before we left the castle and headed back to Braubach, we enjoyed spectacular panoramic views of the Rhine River. Back in the small town, we were on the lookout for a café. We strolled by lovely half-timbered houses dating back to the 1600’s. Window boxes planted with colorful flowers decorated the sides of buildings. The only food being served in town at 2 p.m. was dessert, so we forced ourselves to down some apple strudel and decadent cake before we caught an afternoon train back to Bacharach.

Bis spater,


Gutenfels Castle, originally built in 1220, is now a hotel.


Schönburg Castle built in 1149, towers majestically over the Rhine.


Another picturesque town along the Rhine.


Pulling into St. Goar, Germany.


The beautiful town of St. Goar.


Another K-D cruise boat pulling into a small town along the Rhine.


We pull into the town of Boppard, Germany


A view of Marksburg Castle from the Rhine River.


A Rhine River view from Marksburg Castle.


Braubach with its lovely half-timbered houses dating back to the 1600’s.


Kevin explores the flower lined streets of Braubach.


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Krull European Vacation!

Posted September 3, 2014 By admin


Bacharach, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Germany.


August 5, 2014


Dan, Kevin, Rodge and I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at 8 a.m. CEST from Atlanta, Georgia. After a nine-hour flight filled with meals and movies, we were ready to start our European vacation. With our luggage in tow, we walked through the airport toward the train station. With the signs in both German and English, it was easy to find. When we arrived, we validated our Rail Passes, checked the train schedule and then jumped on the 10 a.m. train to Bacharach.

When we planned our trip, we made the decision to travel by train, so before we left the U.S. we purchased German Rail Passes. The pass covered all of our train travel in Germany, train travel to Salzburg, Austria, tickets for a cruise down the Rhine River and a discount on bus fare down Germany’s Romantic Road. The trains had easy to access schedules, were efficient, reliable, clean and a joy to ride.

We arrived in the small town of Bacharach at 11:30 a.m. As we walked along its narrow cobblestone streets, it was hard to believe we were in one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Germany. The town situated along the banks of the Rhine River greeted us with its towering hillsides lined with vineyards and streets filled with timber-framed houses. We couldn’t wait to explore the charming laid-back town but first we needed to recharge our batteries in Hotel zur Post, our lodging for the next two nights.

After a much-needed rest, we took a walk along Bacharach’s old town wall. The wall, erected to defend the small town was built between 1344 and 1400. It originally had sixteen guard towers and now only nine remained. We climbed a set of steep stairs and a rugged path along the wall remnants until we arrived at the top of a hill. The views of the town and the Rhine River were magnificent.

As we continued to climb higher, we discovered Stahleck Castle.The medieval towering fortress was constructed around 1135 and throughout its history parts of it were destroyed and rebuilt several times. The last major renovation took place during the early 20th century. In 1926, the castle was reopened as a youth hostel and to this day continues to host young travelers and their families passing through Europe.

We walked around the castle and through its central courtyard, taking in the sweeping views of the Rhine Valley. A path outside the castle led us down along lush vineyards full of Riesling grapes and by one of the towns original guard towers. From the northern viewpoint of the city, we could see several other top sights. We ended our day with dinner at the restaurant Altes Haus, located in Bacharach’s oldest building constructed in 1368.

Bis spater,



Top of the hill views of the Rhine River and Bacharach.


Stahleck Castle, a medieval towering fortress.


Stahleck Castle’s central courtyard.


Rodge and Dan explore Bacharach.


One of the Bacharach’s original guard towers surrounded by lush vineyards.


A tower standing guard over Bacharach.


Peering through a tower door into Bacharach.


The ruins of Saint Werner’s Chapel in Bacharach.


The 12th century St. Peters Church, has been restored and rebuilt many times.


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We Launch Into Sitka, Alaska !

Posted August 22, 2013 By admin


Boats float in beautiful Sitka waters.



August 22, 2013 


At 6:30 a.m., our cruise ship anchored in Sitka Sound. It was July 17, 2013 and a glorious seventy-degree morning. We had until 2:30 p.m. to explore the quaint town of Sitka, but first we had to board a launch and motor two miles to the docks.

Sitka is situated on the west side of Baranoff Island and is only accessible by sea and air. This picturesque town sits just opposite Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano. Sitka is surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, which provides numerous opportunities to see Alaskan wildlife. The town of 9,000 residents is primarily a fishing community but rich in Russian heritage.

The city was founded in 1799 by explorer Alexander Baranoff who was hired by the Russian-American Company to colonize the area and set up a fur trade. Sitka became the capital of the Russian Empire in Alaska and prospered by the sale of sea otter pelts. After years of success, the economy went bust because of the declining sea otter population. Eventually, Russia decided to sell Sitka and all of Alaska to the U.S. in 1867 for $7.2 million.  

When we arrived in port, our first stop was the Alaska Raptor Center. The center is Alaska’s only full-service avian hospital and educational facility. Each year, they provide medical treatment to 100-200 injured bald eagles and other birds. Their goal is to release the birds back into the wild. Some are treated and released while others require extensive rehabilitation. Some birds become permanent residents, because even after treatment they aren’t able to survive in the wild.

While touring the center we saw over twenty resident eagles, falcons, owls, and hawks.  We met Volta, a beautiful male bald eagle who has been at the center since 1992. He was rescued after flying into a power line and is the center‘s patriarch and star of their educational program. We also met Tootsie, a Northern Saw-whet Owl. She arrived at the center with a broken left wing. She is the resident “cutie”, standing only eight inches tall and weighing three ounces. Tootsie elicits a smile from everyone she meets.

One of the highlights of our Sitka tour was visiting Fortress of the Bear, a refuge for orphaned brown bear cubs. The organization rescues cubs and raises them until they’re old enough to go to a zoo or sanctuary. If not saved they would be euthanized by the State because there is no other place to care for them and returning the cubs to the wild would result in them dying. This wonderful organization gives these foundlings a chance to live.

As we stood up above the five resident bears on a high platform, we had a great time watching them actively romp, wrestle and swim. It was wonderful to see the very playful bears enjoy their surroundings and interact with each other. It almost seemed as if they liked making us smile. Three of the bears were four-year-old siblings. The other two were brothers each weighing 1,000 pounds. The owner and staff were very knowledgeable and provided us with informative commentary. I was glad we had the opportunity to see the magnificent animals and support their fortress.

We ended the day in downtown Sitka, where we walked around the picturesque town and explored small shops and galleries. Standing in Totem Square, we had a magnificent view of Mount Edgecumbe. The square offered amazing waterfront views. Colorful fishing boats and gliding eagles captured our attention. In the distance, snow-capped mountains sparkled. We thoroughly enjoyed our Sitka experience but it was time to board a launch and head back to our ship.

Fair winds,



Volta, a rescued Bald Eagle.


Tootsie, a Northern Saw-whet Owl.


Two brothers posing for the camera.


A rescued brown bear at the Fortress.


A magnificent view of Mount Edgecumbe from totem Square.


A waterfront view of colorful fishing boats.


A totem pole displayed in Totem Square.


A fishing boat heading out into Sitka Sound.


Cruise passengers board a launch to motor back to their ship.


Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano.


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The Awe-inspiring Glacier Bay!

Posted August 12, 2013 By admin


Gliding through blue-green waters in magnificent Glacier Bay.



August 12, 2013  

I awoke to another magnificent Alaskan day. The sun was out in full force and it was only 4:45 a.m. Now that’s early for me, but this time of year the sun rises at 4 a.m. and sets at 10 p.m. giving Alaskans a long summer day. I was too excited to sleep any longer because it was the day we would explore Glacier Bay.   

Glacier Bay National Monument was established in 1925 and renamed Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in 1980. The park encompasses 3.3 million acres and Glacier Bay lies in the middle of the huge preserve. Its many inlets and fjords contain sixteen active tidewater glaciers fueled by enough snow to flow out of the mountains and down to the sea.

At 6:45 a.m., we entered Glacier Bay and a few minutes later stopped at Bartlett Cove (Park Headquarters), where two park rangers boarded the ship to spend the day as our guides. Throughout our stay in Glacier Bay, they provided informative commentary as we slowly made our way fifty-five miles north to the tidewater glaciers.

The captain opened up the bow of the ship on three levels so we could have a sweeping view of the bay. It was breezy and cold on the bow so most of us donned hats and winter parkas. Along with a warming sun, there was a coffee and hot chocolate station set up on deck to help take the chill off.

As we glided through the green-blue waters of Glacier Bay, the reflection of the ice-capped mountains in the still water lent an air of solitude and tranquility to our visit. We saw wildlife all around us. Humpback whales waved to us with their tails as they dove in and out of the water. High-soaring bald eagles glided through the air scanning for prey. At one point, I saw a bald eagle float by on an iceberg. What a cool way to cruise!

At 11:15 a.m., we arrived at the head of Tarr Inlet. Here we explored Margerie Glacier, named for the French geographer and geologist Emmanuel de Margerie who visited the Glacier Bay in 1913. Inside the inlet, calm blue-green waters were dotted with chunks of ice. The massive glacier towered 250 feet above us. The mile-wide ice flow stretched twenty-one miles from the south slope of Mount Root on the Alaska-Canada border to Tarr Inlet.

Our ship slowed and coasted within a quarter-mile of the massive ice face. Passengers lined the bow with binoculars and cameras to capture a view of the towering ice queen. Its sheer green and blue walls, smudged by black debris carried down from the mountainside, towered from the water’s surface. The jagged edges left in the top of the glacier from pieces falling away, formed intricate shapes and patterns.

The ship spent about a full hour in front of the Margerie Glacier. The captain allowed plenty of time for everyone on board to see the glacier by turning the ship slowly so that all sides faced the glacier for a considerable amount of time.

As we crowded the rails, a hush came over the ship. Suddenly, we heard a loud crack, and then a noise that sounded like a thunderclap. The silence was shattered as a chunk of ice crumbled and slowly fell into the water. Margerie Glacier was actively calving or breaking off ice chunks. As chunks continued to fall, Kittiwake gulls circled over pools of ice looking for fish.

At 1 p.m., we left Tarr Inlet and spent the rest of the afternoon cruising south through Glacier Bay. We passed by John Hopkins Inlet which is home to nine glaciers. As I looked down the inlet with all of its magnificent icy rivers, I saw snow-covered Mount Fairweather in the distance. Hanging glaciers on mountainsides glistened in the afternoon sun. Sparkling icebergs floated by in calm, icy waters. I hated to leave such a magical place.

As we cruised out of Glacier Bay, I was inspired by its rugged beauty. I was also humbled and in awe of its snow covered landscapes and icy sculptures. Only God could have created such a masterpiece. 

Fair winds,



Entering awe-inspiring Glacier Bay.


A stunning mountain landscape.


A mountain covered with a blanket of snow and ice.


A lonely iceberg floats in placid Glacier Bay.


A hanging glacier sparkles in the sun.


The rugged beauty of the mountains.


Swirling glacier art.


The snout of Margerie Glacier.


Margerie Glacier towers 250 feet above us.


Up close and personal with Margerie Glacier.


Gliding slowly along, the ship leaves a gentle wake behind.


A mountainside covered with snow and moss.


A glacier on the move.


The solitude and tranquility of Glacier Bay.


Leaving humbling Glacier Bay.


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