Tag Archives: Füssen

AUSTIN. Not all Texas cities are created equal

43. Probably one of the most irrelevant and insignificant ages in a person’s life. It’s right up there with 22 and 37; but, any birthday, any year is GREAT when you live in Austin, Texas.

Greetings from AUSTIN - Capitol of Texas
Greetings from AUSTIN – Capitol of Texas

Ever since I was old enough to say “I’m not going to work on my birthday”, I haven’t worked on my birthday, and this year was no different. I threw my kick ass Crumpler camera bag over my shoulder and decided to explore my city while I waited on my friends from Lubbock and Houston to arrive in town. Let’s just say… “Not all Texas cities are created equal” and leave it at that.

Austin GlobeTrekker 2013
Austin GlobeTrekker 2013

If your travel plans involve an Excel spreadsheet of what you’re doing each day, each hour, where you’re eating, what time you’re having coffee, and how long you’re going to stand in front of X statue, or visit Y museum, then you and I my friend will have some “challenges” as travel partners. I think I’ve mentioned multiple times… I just need to know WHERE I’m sleeping each night. 2 words… MADRID. Yeah, I know that’s just one word. Add !@#$%&! in front of it, and you’ll get the idea. It was 2003, and I really need to let it go; But, I digress. I needed COFFEE and Jo’s Coffee was my 1st stop.

Jo's Coffee - South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
Jo’s Coffee – South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
Cup of joe at Jo's [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Cup of joe at Jo’s [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
So once again… my plan for the day… I’m going to act like a tourist and SEE the city of Austin! Yeah, I pretty much made it to Jo’s Coffee Shop on South Congress Ave (SoCo). If you want to waste away a morning with no care in the world… SoCo is your place. Reminds me of a story (here comes the random irrelevant travel tangent). My wife Anna and I accidentally stumbled into a little Italian run coffee shop in the beautiful town of Füssen, Bavaria (aka Germany) a few years ago, and almost didn’t make it to Neuschwanstein Castle. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration and partially my fault. Actually, it was ALL of my fault. I accidentally put Falkenstein Castle in the GPS instead of Neuschwanstein Castle, and next thing you know… we’re lost in the middle of the Bavarian Alps (which was AWESOME by the way!). We eventually saw the castle that inspired Walt Disney; but, between the town of Füssen and my GPS incompetence, we kinda got sidetracked by more than a few hours that day. Which was perfectly cool, because that’s how great unexpected travel stories are created. Wrote a blog about it which you can read here: BAVARIA. Get Lost! Besides… We knew we were sleeping in Salzburg that night. That’s all I needed to know.

Neuschwanstein Castle - Bavarian Alps [May 2011]
Neuschwanstein Castle – Bavarian Alps [May 2011]
Füssen, Germany – Bavarian Alps [May 2011]
Wait… How the heck did I get off on a tangent about Bavaria? OK, back to Austin. 68 F and Sunny (the weather, not me). I’m sitting on an outdoor bench at Jo’s Coffee, sippin’ on a perfectly crafted mocha, legs kicked up on the chair across from me, reading my Facebook birthday greetings and trying to “like” and/or respond to every single one of them. Finally, I did what every smart person should do at least one day per week, and I put away my iPhone and decided to be still. calm. quiet. And appreciate the world of South Congress Avenue passing in front of me. What a magnificent birthday treat!

Jo's - The Best Coffee in Town [South Congress Ave. - Austin, TX]
Jo’s – The Best Coffee in Town [South Congress Ave. – Austin, TX]
Jo's Coffee - http://www.joscoffee.com/ 1300 South Congress Ave. - Austin, TX]
Jo’s Coffee – http://www.joscoffee.com/ 1300 South Congress Ave. [Austin, TX]
I’m telling you people… If “People Watching” was an Olympic sport, I’d be a 5 time reigning Olympic Gold Medalist. Some people call it lazy… I call it observant and patient. I couldn’t tell you how long I was sitting at Jo’s “People Watching”; however, without a purpose or cue, I removed myself from my perch, and decided to capture my SoCo surroundings on camera. ONE CITY BLOCK my friends! That’s how much of my city I saw that morning, and it was fantastic! Thanks Jo’s Coffee!

People Watching on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
People Watching on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
Something as simple as the green side wall infused with red spray paint at Jo’s that says… “I Love You So Much”. My first thought… These punk kids with their graffiti!!! Just kidding. My first thought… Anna (my wife). I snapped a photo and sent it to her via text. Her response: “Did you write that?”. It crossed my mind ever so briefly to take credit for this simplistic and beautiful message; but, I gave the fine folks at Jo’s all the credit.

"i love you so much" - Jo's Coffee Shop [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
“i love you so much” – Jo’s Coffee Shop [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Right next door to Jo’s… Snack Bar Diner – Lounge. Even the sign is cool! “Food! We’ve Got It!”. Yes they do! Organic local produce all wrapped into a cool vibe. A piece of art mounted on the back wall of the parking lot shows favor to the quirkiness of Austin’s SoCo. I’m also a sucker for vehicles that look like they shouldn’t be running; yet, somehow their soul is revived as a reminder of how things used to be. And I like that.

Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Old... but, running (I think) - Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Old… but, running (I think) – Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Look up, and you can’t help but see the landmark Austin Motel in front of you.  “No Additives. No Preservatives. Corporate Free Since 1938”. Yeah, there’s also NO VACANCY. Hit the end of the block and turn back, and there’s a 2nd message from Austin Motel. “So Close. Yet So Far Out”. It’s South Congress baby!

AUSTIN MOTEL - No Additives. No Preservatives. No Corporate Free Since 1938
AUSTIN MOTEL – No Additives. No Preservatives. Corporate Free Since 1938

AUSTIN MOTEL - So Close. Yet So Far Out. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
AUSTIN MOTEL – So Close. Yet So Far Out. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
The block was lined with unique storefronts filled with quirky artifacts, clothing, boots, and furniture. Not that I was out to shop; but, more or less to proudly appreciate the focus on supporting local businesses. Places like El Tezontle Gallery, Heritage Boot Company (handmade fancy boots), Stella Blue Boutique & Salon, and Blackmail Boutique and Atelier. Just cool. VERY cool.

El Tezontle Gallery [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
El Tezontle Gallery [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Heritage Boot Company - Handmade Fancy Boots. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Heritage Boot Company – Handmade Fancy Boots. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Blackmail. Stella Blue. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Blackmail. Stella Blue. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
As I made my way back towards Jo’s, I thought I heard live music. We’re living in the Music Capitol of The World, so of course you’re going to hear music; But, how often do you hear live music from a guy named “Guitar Shawn” rockin’ out on the top of his van on South Congress Ave in front of the Austin famous Continental Club? Well… probably more often than one would think. CLASSIC! I tipped brother Shawn, he gestured a “Thank You Brother!” and just kept on jammin’ with his circa 1987 hair and Texas Lone Star State flag blowin’ in the wind. Right on! #Guitar_Shawn

"Guitar Shawn" - rockin' on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
“Guitar Shawn” – rockin’ on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
"Guitar Shawn" - South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
#Guitar_Shawn [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
I just had coffee. Listened to Guitar Shawn. And now, I’m sitting on yet another bench, moderating a conversation (albeit argument) between 3 young ladies trying to figure out has the best ice cream in Austin, which then escalated quickly to the State of Texas. Did I mention I was right outside Amy’s Ice Cream? Look no further young ladies! AMY’S ICE CREAM is the answer! Is it the best ice cream in town? Perhaps. How about the best in Texas? It’s debatable. I’m a true Texas fan of Blue Bell Ice Cream (Brenham, TX); however, last time I bought a pint of homemade vanilla at HEB Grocery Store, I don’t recall any servers performing a magic show as they infuse gummy bears and half a Snicker’s Bar into a delicious mound of Belgian Chocolate ice cream that is then flipped into a waffle bowl. Amy’s is about the entertainment and the delivery! These dudes (and fabulous ladies) are like Wizards of Frozen Dairy! And oh yeah… it’s that goooooood!

Amy's Ice Cream - The Wizards of Frozen Dairy [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Amy’s Ice Cream – The Wizards of Frozen Dairy [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
As I was making my way back to the car, I found myself stopping outside of Hotel San Jose. A great place for date night, friends in town, afternoon or late night drink; but, although I live here in Austin… it’s a goal of mine to actually STAY a night at Hotel San Jose. Just an iconic hotel residence to call your home for a night (or two) in Austin, Texas.

Hotel San Jose - [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Hotel San Jose – [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Entrance to Hotel San Jose [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Entrance to Hotel San Jose [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
My friends called. Lubbock and Houston had arrived. That was my 43rd Birthday morning. Unscripted. No purpose or cause. And it was spectacular! Maybe next time I’ll try to do more than just peruse ONE CITY BLOCK. Perhaps see 2 or 3 blocks of South Congress Avenue, or even venture (dare I say) to OTHER cool and hip parts of A U S T I N. Like I said… Not all Texas cities are created equal.

A  U  S  T  I  N  .  T  E  X  A  S

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