BAVARIA. Get Lost!


Schloss Neuschwanstein - Bavarian Alps, Germany - May 2011

In Texas, we have something called “Texas Pride”. Now, I’m not saying that Mozambique, Estonia, Arkansas, Hungary, or The Philippines don’t have pride. I’m merely saying that no where else in the world will you find “Texas Pride”. Or so I thought. To steal a line from ESPN’s (Coach) Lee Corso… “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!”.

The charming and unspoiled town of Fussen, Bavaria - Germany - May 2011

So, what IS “Texas Pride”? In my opinion, it’s when you’re in Queenstown, New Zealand; Barcelona, Spain; London, England; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Guanacaste, Costa Rica; or more recently, Lake Bled, Slovenia, and somebody asks you… “Where are you from?” and you simply smile and say “TEXAS”. I’ve heard the same question asked to others, and I’ve heard “Switzerland”, or “Sao Paulo, Brazil”. But most commonly, you’ll hear “we’re from the US”. Then they might mention their city and state (i.e. Little Rock, Arkansas).

Munchen - Hoffbrau Haus - May 2011

You’re probably scratching your head wondering “what’s the difference?” and “why does he keep mentioning Arkansas?“. I’ll tell you. My Alma Mater – Texas A&M is playing Arkansas this weekend in Dallas, Texas. I’ve been distracted by college football all week! Oh, and so the difference is… Texans are Texans first. Americans second. It’s not arrogance. It’s just “Texas Pride”. Sorry. The Bavarians proved to me that they have that same bloodline of pride. Bavarians first. Germans second. And after spending some time in Bavaria… I understand.

Traditional Bavarian Beer Garden - Munich's Viktualienmarkt - Germany 2011
Munchen, Germany - They don't know Tex Mex food; But... The Bavarians KNOW beer!

Small confession. It took my wife (Anna) and I over 10 hours to get from Munich, Germany to Salzburg, Austria. If you live in Texas… that’s about the same distance from Austin to San Antonio. In other words… well under 100 miles.  115km to be exact. If you look at a map of Germany, it’s quite easy to see why Munich is considered The Gateway to Bavaria; so, as bad ass as it is to travel mach 5 with your hair on fire at 200km/h on the Autobahn… we wanted to take “the road less traveled” and visit Schloss Neuschwanstein – The Walt Disney looking castle. It’s common sense that if you want to find a castle on a mountain, you have to drive to the mountains. Our first stop… The Bavarian Alps.

The picturesque town center of Fussen, Bavaria - Germany

Now before I get too far into my wordy story, I want to share some insight about our general attitude when we travel. As a rule of thumb, we only truly care about TWO things:

1. Enjoying and appreciating our destination.

2. Knowing where we’re sleeping each night.

Other than that… NOTHING is set in stone when we travel.

Ratskellar - Munich, Germany - May 2011

Looking like a couple of Cheshire Cats, we grinned from ear to ear in anticipation of our visit to Schloss Neuschwanstein. Two Texans in Munich, Germany, driving a Swedish Volvo V60 D5 with a British navigation system we called “Margaret”. I quite fancied her; however, I’ve been fooled by a pretty voice before. Let’s not bother with that story. Anyway, moving on. We made the decision to stop at the 700 year old Bavarian town of Füssen. What I’ve discovered about travel is… The greatest surprises in life are the adventures never expected. Situated at the southern end of the Romantic Road, Füssen is an absolutely charming and well preserved Medieval town. It was quite easy to see why it is considered the romantic soul of Bavaria.

Fussen - "The Romantic Soul of Bavaria"

Arriving early that morning, we leisurely strolled along the town center’s uncrowded pedestrian streets and narrow lanes. One charming vision of art and beautiful architecture after another. From the base of the town center, we embarked on what I can honestly say, without hesitation was the BEST cafe mocha I have ever had in my life. Served at a small cafe in Füssen Bavaria by an Italian man. Could have just been the atmosphere. Or perhaps it was his meticulous preparation and care he put into making each of us a glorious cup of coffee. Sure, he was Italian; but, he showed us Bavarian Pride! I think one of the things I most admire about practically ALL Bavarian cities, towns and villages (correct me if I’m wrong), is the architectural and religious presence of a church. Religious or not, it is hard to deny the beauty and historical value this presence serves in Bavarian society. I, myself made it a point to say a prayer for friends, families, and those who came before me to the Basilica, as part of my appreciation for my destination. As if you couldn’t already tell… I’m a fan of Füssen.

"Fresh Bread" - Fussen, Bavaria - May 2011

After a slow and pleasant walk back to the car, I programmed Margaret for our key tourist destination… Falkenstein Castle. Pulling out of Fussen and making our way around a few roundabouts, something felt a bit off. Or as my Cousin Roger from England would say… “well dodgy!”. Nevertheless, I’d like to believe that Margaret was smarter than I am; however, when she had me pull off the main road up a mountain path that looked like somebody’s driveway, we decided it was best to pull over and see where the heck she was taking us.

The Bavarian Alps - Germany - May 2011

I vaguely recall Anna asking me to check the map again. Yeah, “Falkenstein Castle”. It was showing the destination was only a couple kilometers away. Anna being the smart person she is, quickly identified that you can see Neuschwanstein Castle from miles away. Like a fool… I had typed in FALKENSTEIN CASTLE, located in the Texas Hill Country – built by Texas businessman, Terry Young and his wife, Kim. The irony of it all… there really IS a Falkenstein Castle in Bavaria. The highest castle ruin of Germany.

LOST in Bavaria - somewhere between Fussen and Schloss Neuchenwanstein

WE WERE LOST! Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit here. You’re never truly lost if you have a physical map and a car with a navigation system. Overall, probably the best mistake we made during our vacation, because we found our way through a portion of Bavaria that we may never have seen. We discovered pristine alpine lakes and views, and in all reality, we weren’t that far away from Neuschwanstein Castle after all. Once again… The greatest surprises in life are the adventures never expected.

Anna - Lost in The Bavarian Alps, Germany - May 2011

Walking up to Neuschwanstein Castle has got to be one of the most awe inspiring feats of architecture I have ever seen in my life. Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain is truly impressive. So is St. Mark’s in Venice, Italy; however, Schloss Neuschwanstein poised amongst the Bavarian Alps was absolutely incredible. It was obvious that King Ludwig II was clearly off his rocker when he had this place constructed. I’ve got some more architectural wonders to check out during my lifetime that I’m sure will surpass this experience – The Vatican, Taj Majal, and Taktsang Palphug Monastery (“Tiger’s Nest”) in Bhutan; but, for now… Neuschwanstein was fantastic!

The hike up to Neuschwanstein Castle - May 2011
Schloss Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein Castle - Germany

I don’t recall how many hours we spent at Neuschwanstein. The day was getting long, so we called our residence for the evening at Hotel & Villa Auersperg in Salzburg, to inform them… we’d be a little bit late. If you’re ever visiting Salzburg, I highly recommend Hotel & Villa Auersperg. Warm, friendly, and attentive staff. CLEAN rooms. Sure, air conditioning is absent; but, it’s Europe. I live in Texas. No Austrian heat can phase me. Plus, even in May, the nights were cool with an awesome breeze, so we slept with the windows open. Care to learn more about my thoughts on Austria, you can check out one of my previous blogs: Austria! Well, then… G’day mate!

Austria Lake District - Mondsee on the way to St. Gilgen, Austria - May 2011

Although time was irrelevant, we started feeling a bit like the cast of Gilligan’s Island. Just a bit off the map. A few jaunts through some beautiful winding Bavarian roads along the Deutsche Alpenstraße and we found ourselves in Bad Tölz – another unspoiled village that drew us with its amazing charm.

Bad Tolz, Bavaria - May 2011
The unspoiled charm of Bad Tolz
Anna - "window shopping" in Bad Tolz, Bavaria - Germany 2011

I’m not Bavarian. I don’t live in Germany. But, in my opinion, and from my short stay in Bavaria… I would define “Bavarian Pride” as “An unbelievable preservation of culture, history, architecture, cuisine, sociability and hospitality within a magically picturesque region of Germany”. Bavarians first. Germans second. In summary, and my recommendation if you should find yourself in Bavaria… Take your time. Get lost!

The charming town of Fussen, Bavaria - May 2011

TRAVEL | EXPLORE | DREAM | DISCOVER

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FALL. Vermont. New Hampshire. happy.


Groucho Marx said “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

White Mountain National Forest - New Hampshire, USA

It’s not very often that I write about a travel destination with a heavy heart; but, when you consider the devastating weather that is currently battering portions of the United States… well, it’s hard not to. I’m not going to write about the wild fires in Central Texas, because I live here. Just too painful. While we can’t get a drop of water – others have waaaaaay too much torrential rain. There has to be a balance. But… there’s not. For now, with a heavy heart… I will reverse time to September 2010 (exactly a year ago) and blog about one of my favorite places. favorite times. FALL. Vermont. New Hampshire. happy.

The Kancamagus Highway - Hwy 10 to 25 to Route 112 - New Hampshire, USA

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times… TRAVEL is the catalyst for my non-scholastic “Theory of a Better Life”. To put it simply – TRAVEL makes me happy. So, how do you improve on something that makes you happy? You share it with someone. Typically, my wife Anna and I sit down (usually on the plane ride home from the trip we just finished) and contemplate “where are we going next?”. After spending a week in gorgeous Alberta, Canada (May 2009), Anna said she’d like to see the fall foliage of the North East United States. I think my response may have been something like “…huh?”

Swift River Valley - White Mountain National Forest, NH

September 13th – 17th, 2010. We found ourselves in Vermont (VT) and New Hampshire (NH). Together. Smiling. Relaxing. Enjoying. Celebrating Anna’s birthday (Sept 15th). Living. Laughing. Loving every minute of our time in the North East United States. We rented a car in Manchester, New Hampshire, and drove West to discover this magnificent region. Our destination – Woodstock, Vermont – Chartered 1761. Settled 1768. Perhaps we were a little bit early in the season to capture the fall foliage (early October is best); but… we were happy.

LIVE. LAUGH. LOVE. - Woodstock, Vermont, USA

Reflecting on our 5-day Getaway, it is difficult to narrate our emotional experience; however, I truly hope that my amateur photography captured throughout this region will translate our story and provide a glimpse of our fall journey.

Route 112 - White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Was it the charmfully preserved character of our home away from home at The Woodstock Inn & Resort (Woodstock, VT USA) or the beautiful scenic drives through Vermont’s Green Mountains and winding back country roads that enchanted our destination?Or was it the scenic drive along New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway from 10 to 25 to Route 112 and into White Mountain National Forest?

"Misty Morning" - Route 112 - New Hampshire USA

Perhaps it was the non-commercial “small town America” innocence, beauty, and support for the local businesses and farmers?

The Farmer's Diner - Queechee, Vermont
Emerson Motor Works - Rochester, VT
"The Ol' Barn" - Scenic Route 100 - Vermont
Longhorn? - spotted along US Route 4 - Bridgewater, VT

What about the peaceful rivers, calming lakes, waterfalls, covered wooden bridges, whimsical barns and farmhouses, inspiring hikes, and the breathtaking vistas of New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest?

The Otter Rocks - New Hampshire
Swift River Valley - White Mountain National Forest, NH

If I were a betting man… I would say watching hand blown glass and handmade pottery at Simon Pearce is one of the most underrated experiences I have ever had in my life. I was blown away (pun intended) at the sheer skill and precision these artists demonstrated. And to add to that… the food at their restaurant is absolutely superb! Served on Simon Pearce pottery with hand blown glass stemware. Impressive. VERY impressive.

Simon Pearce - Handblown Glass & Handmade Pottery - Queechee, VT USA
Simon Pearce - The Mill @ Queechee, VT
Simon Pearce - http://www.simonpearce.com

Remembering back… it quite possibly could have been the unfathomable quarts of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream that captivated me most about our trip. It’s definitely not a secret, so if you find yourself within the vicinity of Waterbury, Vermont, I highly recommend the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour.

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream - Vermont's Finest - Waterbury, VT
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream - Waterbury, VT

For now, I reserve the right to say ALL OF THE ABOVE. Vermont and New Hampshire are special jewels to be cherished. FALL. Vermont. New Hampshire. happy.

"I LOVE Vermont" - Killington Hay Festival 2010 - Killington, VT

As I sat in my kitchen this morning – worried about the wild fires within the vicinity of our home in Austin, Texas – I sipped a glorious cup of Green Mountain CoffeeVermont Country Blend – while reading an email from Werner Graef – President & General Manager at Woodstock Inn & Resort.

Green Mountains - Scenic Route 100 - Vermont, USA
No description necessary - Green Mountains - Vermont, USA

According to Mr Graef’s email… Mother Nature dealt Vermont a tough hand with Hurricane Irene this past week. All employees and guests weathered the situation safely; however, the property did not completely escape without incident. The lower floors of the inn experienced some flooding, causing damage to several meeting rooms, 13 of the inn’s 142 guest rooms, and some of its kitchen facilities.

Middle Bridge - Woodstock, VT USA
The Prince & The Pauper - Anna's Birthday Dinner - 9.15.10 - Woodstock, VT

A 100-person clean-up crew was on hand to make swift progress of the situation. All the upper floors of the main inn building – including 129 guest rooms and suites, the signature Red Rooster restaurant, Richardson’s Tavern, The Spa at Woodstock, and all public spaces – were undamaged and required minimal cosmetic attention.

rainy afternoon @ Dewey Mill Pond - Woodstock, Vermont USA

He also mentioned they will be sharing daily updates on their website: www.woodstockinn.com. Still… the news saddened us, because every place mentioned, we knew.

Queechee Covered Bridge - The Mill @ Queechee, VT
The Road Home - Hwy 12 - Vermont

I think what was most disheartening was knowing that this was just one of many incident reports across the states of Vermont and New Hampshire. Buildings damaged. Rivers overflowing. Farms and local produce destroyed. All in all, you can take away buildings and possessions; but, you can never take away people’s spirit and love for a community. That’s what I remember the most about Vermont and New Hampshire.

Stacked Wood - Woodstock, VT USA
Wood Stack in Woodstock, VT
Historic American Flag - Woodstock, Vermont USA

I will keep the people of Vermont and New Hampshire in my thoughts and prayers (and ask that you do the same) and I will continue to dream of another day, another year, another time, when we can get back East to experience the Fall Foliage. And yes… Vermont was #6 on National Geographic Traveler’s 133 Destinations Rated.

Anna & Jason - "The Orchard" - 9.17.10 - Queechee, VT

Until we blog again… TRAVEL | EXPLORE | DREAM | DISCOVER

"The End of the Road" - Woodstock to Quechee, VT USA