Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: A Second look

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: A Second look

We were fascinated a couple of years ago when we visited Rothenburg; so much so that we put it on our list of places to return to next time we were in Germany. This week, we did just that, and the weather was in full cooperation. Last visit, we had only one full day to discover the city and it was a near total wash-out. We left our Nikons in the room and braved the city streets with rain gear and phone cameras, but weren’t too happy about talking our phones out in the rain either.

This time the weather cooperated completely. We budgeted two full days to re-discover this town, and ended up walking as much of it as we could in that time.

13th Century Wall around Rothenburg

If you want to take a walk back in time, you can walk the wall built around Rothenburg in the 13th century. Photo by Donald Fink.

Rothenburg is generally regarded as one of Europe’s best preserved Medieval towns. There are a couple of reasons for this that date back to 1631 when it was occupied by an unfriendly Army, and again a couple of years later when it was ravaged by the Black Plague. There were some tense moments again in World War II, but again the city came out in better shape than many European towns at the time. We wrote about all this in an earlier story, and you can see our remarks in that first article, about Rothenburg. There are some images in that article that we managed to get in between rain that’s worth a look.

Rothenburg sits just southwest of Nuremberg, but it was an easy drive from Frankfurt too. You can click on “View Larger Map” above to see a full page map of the area.
 
Here’s a quick video showing our impression of the town of Rothenberg. Enjoy.
 
Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Travel, 0 comments
Schwerin Palace

Schwerin Palace

We’ve talked about Schwerin before, and we’ve mentioned the iconic Schwerin Palace, but we’ve never given the Palace the attention it deserves. After all, it was Schwerin Palace that originally drew us to this northern German town in the first place.

Schwerin Palace sits on a small island in Lake Schwerin. It is, of course, near the town of Schwerin in northern Germany near the Baltic Sea. Our first visit here was during a Baltic Sea cruise aboard a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship. We stopped in Warnemünde for a day and caught a bus into Schwerin. Our first stop was the Palace where we did a walk through its interior and the grounds.

Like so many other buildings in Europe, Schwerin Palace has a rich and interesting history. While people have been living in the area for many thousands of years, the generally accepted year that the palace was established is 1160, when a famous medieval lord Henriech der Löwe (Henry the Lion), Duke of Bavaria and Saxony, conquered a group of Slavic tribes who had occupied the fortress of Schwerin since 960. As it is, Schwerin is one of the last true residence palaces to be built in Germany.

From 1945 through 1989 it was used as Mecklenburg’s parliamentary seat, an educational college, a museum of prehistory and early history, and a polytechnic museum. In 1990, after the reunification of East and West Germany, Schwerin Palace became the seat of the regional parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, one of sixteen federal states in Germany. Extensive restoration work also began and continues to some extent today.

For us, as tourists, there’s a large area of the palace that’s open for tours. You can see re-created rooms as they probably were in the 15th century when royalty lived here. You can also see a regional parliament in action if they’re in session, but you’ll of course want to brush up on your German.

The ghost of Schwerin Castle, named Petermännchen, is said to be no more than four feet tall. One legend says that this little guy is a spirit servant of a pagan god. When the pagan god was driven out of Schwerin by Christianity, Petermännchen remained behind, refusing to leave his post.

There’s a ghost at Schwerin Palace called Petermännchen, or, Little Peterman. This good-natured spirit is said to be only about four feet tall. There’s a statue of him at the Palace. He’s described in a couple of ways. One is that he’s occasionally seen wandering the vaults and tunnels under the castle. He carries keys, unlocking doors as he goes along. Another legend says that he patrols the grounds with a lantern and a small sword or dagger, guarding the Palace against thieves. He rewards good behavior and plays pranks and tricks on others. He makes banging noises at night, and has been known to awaken sleeping guards to keep them from being punished.

In our wanderings around Germany, we’ve now made two stops at Schwerin Palace. Below you can see some of the images we brought back. You can also see an article we recently posted about Schwerin here along with a post about our favorite hotel in Schwerin, the Weinhaus Uhle.

Enjoy.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Travel, 0 comments
Visiting the Schwangau Countryside

Visiting the Schwangau Countryside

We were in Schwangau last week. It’s in the southern part of Germany, on the border with Austria. In fact, some of our day trips in the car took us up into the Alps of Austria just to see the sights.

The main draw for this incredibly popular tourist town is the two pristine, 19th Century castles, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. It seems that every bus tour that visits Germany makes its way there. For such a small town with barely a cell phone signal, it seems packed with tourists.

We were here two years ago and spent the little time we had visiting the castles. We wrote about it here along with some images of the castles and surrounding area. This time we’ll be spending more time in the area, admiring the castles from afar. We don’t mind going back to a place we’ve visited before, but we usually like to spend that time doing the things we weren’t able to do the first time.

Last time we visited Schwangau we stayed at a hotel called Villa Ludwig. We were so pleased with it we decided to stay there again. We’re not people who believe you can re-create the magic of a trip simply by doing the same thing again, and we’re not necessarily interested in doing exactly the same things when we visit a place for the second time. But some things, like your hotel accommodations, are not a trivial choice. If it was good the first time, think about doing it again. And this time it paid off. Villa Ludwig was easily as good as it was the first time around. We wrote a more detailed report about the hotel here.

Lake Alpsee

Hohenschwangau Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle.

For much of the walk along the south side of Lake Alpsee, you could turn back and see both castles in Schwangau. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

There’s a small lake at the edge of town called Alpsee bie Schwangau, and of course it has a reasonably well groomed hiking trail around it. Being a lake, it’s reasonably flat and easy to walk. It takes a normal person about 1 1/2 hours to walk the perimeter of the lake, but with the nearly 400 photographs and over 50 video clips we took, the short trek in the woods took us nearly 3 hours. It would have been longer if we had used a tripod, but that’s how we do things in the woods.

At nearly every vantage point along the way, meaning every time we cared to stop and look, there was a view of one or both of the castles in the backdrop of this pristine alpine lake. The lake was flat the day we were there with almost no wind in the crisp morning air. The water seemed to be fed by a single spring, but there is a sizeable streambed that appears to be seasonable where most of the water apparently enters the lake. The water-like many of the streams and rivers in the areas-has a slight turquoise color like so many of the glacier fed rivers do in Montana, near Glacier National Park.

We enjoyed our walk around Alpsee bie Schwangau. If you visit Schwangau and you have the time, this trek in the woods is worth it. If you don’t have the time for the full five kilometers, go out and back with the time you have. If you do, head left as you face the lake. It’s the flattest part of the walk.

Austria

Gurgltal Valley in Austria

Looking down into the Austrian valley of Gurgltal. Photo by Bonnie FInk.

We also wanted to see a little more of the surrounding area this trip and we were instinctively drawn to the mountains immediately to the south of town, also known as Austria. On our second day here, we took a drive into the hills along Highway 179. It wound its way through the mountains through something called Fernpass. We saw mountain scenery that rivaled the Rockies of the northern US and British Columbia. Elevations weren’t particularly high like the Rockies, but the landscape was definitely Alpine in nature, probably because of the northern latitude. There were ferns along the forest floor in the lower areas that were starting to turn brown from the cooling evenings. The trees ranged from evergreens of various kinds to deciduous trees that were starting to change with the fall weather. Higher up along the mountains, you could see a definite tree line where the big trees suddenly stopped and only grasses and shrubs lived, and finally, higher still, there was no vegetation at all.

Photography was interesting too, again, probably because of the high latitude. The images when shot with a daylight balance rendered a bit of sunset color, along with the long shadows associated with either late afternoon shooting,or making images in the deep winter in lower latitude areas.

We drove all the way to Innsbruck, but since we didn’t have a plan for the day, and no pre-planning to visit the city, we basically turned around at the outskirts of the city. We’ll certainly come back when we have an actual plan to see the city, but this day was for looking over the mountains.

Along the way through the mountains, we couldn’t help but see several side roads that led to who knows where, but they looked inviting. Next trip down to this area we’ll see about renting a little more capable vehicle. Our little diesel powered Renault Dacia does a pretty good job on the Autobahn, but didn’t seem too willing to go off road, four-wheeling. This trip we were resolved to enjoying the beauty from the various pull-outs along the road.

There were pull-outs with what looks like trail head parking for hiking into the hills. No doubt some research will reveal a plan of action for our next trip that will be lots of fun.

It turns out that this trip to Schwangau was more about  an impromptu journey into Austria. Considering that when we showed up in town, we didn’t have a plan other than to do something we didn’t do last time, we think our time was well spent. True, we didn’t actually spend much time in town other than the hike around the lake and a couple of meals, but we had enough fun that we’ll definitely be back; probably on our next trip to Europe.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Cruising, Travel, 0 comments
Germany – Our 2017 Photo Tour

Germany – Our 2017 Photo Tour

So far during our 2017 Germany trip we’ve made several stops in Germany, We’ve covered towns from the Baltic sea to the Austrian border, and a few in-between. We can talk all we want, but we really know that folks just want to see the pictures. We’re the same. So here they are:

Posted by Donald Fink in Europe, Gallery, Travel, 0 comments
Villa Ludwig – A Great Hotel In Southern Germany

Villa Ludwig – A Great Hotel In Southern Germany

The first time we stayed in Schwangau, we made our home at the Villa Ludwig, a small eighteen room hotel just on the outskirts of town. We were so taken with this little hotel that we booked an even longer visit here on our second trip.

Vilage of Schwangau

Tourists can take over the village of Schwangau at times, spilling into the streets. Locals seem to take it in stride. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

Schwangau is a small town along the southern border of Germany, within a literal stone’s throw of the border with Austria. In fact, when driving around just randomly looking over the country side, much of our sightseeing was in Austria. Of course, with the European Union fully entrenched here, it’s hard for us outsiders to actually know when we leave one country and enter another. The signs denoting the event are not much different than driving from one state to another in the US. If anything, they’re usually smaller and less significant.

The hotel is modern. It was first in operation in 2012. The main lobby or reception area serves as a dining room where breakfast and an afternoon snack are provided. There is underground parking, and there’s reasonably good internet.

Neuschwanstien Castle

Here’s a view of Neuschwanstien Castle as seen from Villa Ludwig. Many of the rooms have a castle view from the balcony. Photo by Donald Fink.

The hotel has a great view of Neuschwanstien Castle. This is the famous castle designed and built by Mad King Ludwig II. King Ludwig grew up in the village’s other castle, Hohenschwangau, which was built by his father, Maximillian II of Bavaria.

The Disney fans in the crowd will know that Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom came in part from the Neuschwanstien Castle here in Schwangau. You can certainly see the resemblance when comparing the two. It seems that the parts of Neuschwanstien that were most attractive and over the top were re-created with gusto in Cinderella’s Castle. We haven’t visited the castles on this trip, preferring instead to concentrate on other activities in the surrounding area, but we wrote about the castles of Schwangau on our first visit here.

Walking to town from Villa Ludwig takes about five minutes. This is good. There’s lots of parking in town, but it’s so busy with tourists that having a free parking spot underground at the hotel is a real treat. We have been able to access all parts of town and the castles on foot, saving the car for our adventures into the alps of Austria, located just behind the castles.

Pricing

This hotel is not a youth hostel. You won’t find it in a book about how to get around Europe on $15.00 a day. In fact, it’s the most expensive hotel we’ve stayed in this trip. But is it worth it? For us, it’s been worth every penny. The price included internet, breakfast, parking, snacks in the afternoon, free bicycle “rental”, and free concierge service.

If you’re planning any activities in town that require a ticket, don’t pass up the concierge service at the hotel. They can arrange everything with absolutely no trouble for you. The one day we walked by a ticket center in town, the line for castle tours was out the door and wound around the street; not our idea of the best use of your time.

The bottom line is, sure this hotel was more expensive than others we’ve found, but the value was certainly there. In fact, when it comes to value, the prices at Villa Ludwig were similar to prices at other hotels in Schwangau, so it might be argued that with the amenities they offer, it’s actually a bit better value than other establishments.

Everyone at the hotel seems to speak good English, including the folks that service the breakfast in the morning. We didn’t speak to the house keeping people, but they probably speak English too.

Chalet

Villa Ludwig Chalet

The ordinary rooms at Villa Ludwig are good, but if you need a little more room, or more privacy, there’s always the Chalet in the back. This is new for this year and should be popular with guests traveling with large families. Photo by Donald Fink.

There’s a separate building that just recently opened in the back of the hotel called the Chalet. This building houses only two suites, each with multiple bedrooms in different configurations. This Chalet is for groups, families, or folks wanting a very special place to stay while in Schwangau. They have kitchens and separate living rooms apart from the bedrooms. They’re complete apartments, appointed in a tastefull and thoughtful way that lets you know that you’re in a place where kings once lived.

The Chalet is not for everyone, but can be something to think about if you’re visiting with a small group or family.

Rooms

Junior Suite ”Parsifal” at Villa Ludwig

View of the Junior Suite ”Parsifal” at Villa Ludwig. There was plenty of room, lots of electrical outlets, and good WiFi. Photo by Donald Fink.

Our room was a more or less common room with a single king size bed, done in the European style. This means that the bed was made with two separate quilts. There were plenty of plugs around for our electronics and the WiFi signal was strong in the room. There was a fully equipped mini bar which we partially unloaded to make room for a carton of milk. There was also a kettle and a coffee machine.

We also had a view of Neuschwanstien Castle by stepping out on th balcony and looking left. Other rooms had better views but they were more expensive suites. Some rooms have no view of the castle. You need to specifically ask for a Castle view when you make your reservations.

Services

The staff has a concierge service and will take care of reservations for Castle tours, or just about any other kind of excursion you could want. Their German is probably better than yours, so it’s not a bad idea to let them help if you’re the least bit uncomfortable about this kind of thing. Also, if the reservations you’re trying to make are in any way complicated, it would be a good idea to let them help since their language skills—meaning their ability to translate into English—are all excellent. We didn’t use their service since we didn’t do any organized tours this time around, but we did consult about other things to do since they’re locals and know the area.

Tiefgarage at Villa Ludwig

The underground Garage at Villa Ludwig. This guest parking area has nineteen spaces. There are eighteen rooms in the hotel. Looks like they’ve got it covered. Photo by Donald Fink.

There are nineteen parking spaces under the hotel, plus a staff parking area outside to take care of staff and service vehicles. Since there are eighteen rooms, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have a place to park if you bring a car.

Breakfast is daily. They serve American style bacon and scrambled eggs. You may think it’s unusual to mention this, but after a couple of months in Europe, we get excited when we see something besides hard boiled eggs and cold sandwich meat for breakfast. And of course, there are the usual pastries, jams and jellies. And if you actually like hard boiled eggs and cold sandwich meats for breakfast, they have those too.

We prefer walking, but we already mentioned that the hotel provides free bicycles and helmets if you prefer to move around the village and surrounding area that way. They can suggest some routes to see the countryside too.

The internet is free here, which is a change from our stay two years ago. Latency times were in the 20-30 millisecond range and downloads were as fast as 15 megabits, but when afternoon comes around and everyone is on the internet, it slows down quite a bit. We suspect that if we cared to look into it, we would find that the internet service is probably dictated by what’s available in this small town. We could complain to the hotel, and they could complain to the internet provider, but it probably wouldn’t get any better any time soon. It’s just how things are in a small town.

Truthfully, the internet is good enough to check email and do some casual browsing in the evenings. At all other times, it’s good for streaming, skyping, or whatever high bandwidth activity you have in mind. You just have to pick you’re times carefully if you’re going to do something that requires a lot of bandwidth. We’re just spoiled.

We would be hard pressed to say that Villa Ludwig is our absolute favorite hotel of this trip simply because we’ve stayed in so many great places. We wrote about Stumberger’s in Cochem and Weinhaus Uhle in Schwerin earlier, and if we visit those areas again, we’ll certainly use them. But when we come to the southern part of the country, and we certainly will, Villa Ludwig will be our first choice. We’ve stayed here twice now in two years, and haven’t been disappointed yet.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Hotels, Travel, 1 comment
Weinhaus Uhle – A Four Star Hotel in the German Town of Schwerin

Weinhaus Uhle – A Four Star Hotel in the German Town of Schwerin

There are many places to visit in Germany, and many of them are quite popular. One town in the northeast that’s not yet recognized as one of Germany’s best is Schwerin. We learned about this little taste of the real Germany on a Baltic Cruise a few years ago. Our ship, the Norwegian Star, docked in Warnemünde and we made a bus ride down to Schwerin to see the Schwerin Castle.

After that excursion, we made up our minds to come back one day, and this was the year for that trip. While in Schwerin, we stayed in a hotel called the Weinhaus Uhle. The nearly new eighteen room four start hotel is located almost in the very center of town, literally 30 seconds walk from the town square. It’s in a building that was once a wine wholesaler.

Wine Shop and Bistro

Wine Shop and Bistro at Wienhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

The story goes that in 1751, a wine merchant by the name of Johann Uhl founded a wine retail company. He was officially recognized by Duke Christian Ludwig as a Frey-Wien-Schenker, or, Free Wine Merchant. That title enabled him to store and sell wine, brandy, and beer inside the city walls of Schwerin and around the immediate countryside. Over the years, the business grew as it was passed down from one generation to the next, and at one point, the family name changed from Uhl to Uhle.

The wine business survived the great depression as well as World War II, but was unable to thrive after the war in the Communist run GDR (German Democratic Republic). It was nationalized and operated by the government until 1991, when it was handed back to the family after re-unification.

Today, Weinhaus Uhle is a four star hotel rather than a wine warehouse. It’s operated by Dirk and Annika Frymark of Schwerin. They’ve done a remarkable job in restoring the property to its original period look while maintaining a comfortable and modern hotel, restaurant, and wine bar for their guests.

Guest Room at Wienhaus Uhle

Double room deluxe with Balcony at Weinhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

We were on the second floor with a balcony that looked into a common area shared by local apartments, so it was quiet. We didn’t get to enjoy the balcony much this trip because it rained much of the time we were there, but the balcony was there just the same.

The room was large. Actually, it was very large by European standards. The bathroom was modern and functional with a large shower complete with a rain head. There was fast internet on the property and plenty of electrical outlets. We point this out because the building is old, dating back to at least 1763. The interior walls were at least a foot thick. Still, the Frymarks had taken the time to have the building properly wired with electricity, cable for television, and WiFi throughout. There was even an elevator that ran from the top floor to the underground parking garage.

Details in the Dining Room

Incredible ceiling and details in the Dining Room at Weinhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

Breakfast was served in the main restaurant each morning. It was buffet style with scrambled eggs, American bacon, and all the rest for a typical European breakfast bar, including the meats, cheeses, and hard boiled eggs plus several kinds of rolls and jellies.

The price for staying here was modest considering the quality. Parking was additional, but that seems to be normal in Europe. Breakfast was at an extra cost too, which again, seems to be normal for European hotel accommodations. Internet was free, which seems to be trending towards the normal here in Germany. Two years ago, internet worth using was at an extra price.

Parking here was kind of strange. This is both a good thing and an inconvenience. It was inconvenient because the streets were restricted to pedestrian traffic after 10:00 am. You could drive to the entrance of the hotel, but a hotel staff member needed to go with you to lower some barriers in order for you to get around to the parking garage. From strictly a parking point of view, this was a minor annoyance.

The reason for the vehicle restrictions was because this hotel is right downtown in the historic park of old town, almost in the town square. For us, it was worth a minor inconvenience with the parking situation in order to be so close to everything. As we mentioned earlier, the town square was only 30 seconds walk away. The Schwerin Castle, and Lake Schwerin itself, was no more than about two minutes walking time from the hotel. There was a more modern area complete with a small shopping mall, a Subway, and a McDonald’s that was less than five minutes walking from the hotel.

Market Square Schwerin

The colorful Market Square is a great place to start your adventure in Schwerin. It was literally 30 seconds walk from the front door at Wienhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

They say location is everything, and in the case of Weinhaus Uhle, it was an important draw. But it didn’t hurt that this hotel had everything else in its favor. Modern, clean, service oriented, and comfortable. If we ever return to Schwerin—and we probably will—this will automatically be our first choice in hotels in the area.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Hotels, Travel, 0 comments
Schwerin

Schwerin

There’s a small German town in northeastern Germany called Schwerin. It’s about two hours north of Berlin and about an hour and a half east of Hamburg. We would of course like to pretend that we’re world travelers and that we simply knew about this little town all along, but we stumbled upon it mostly by accident a few years ago when we were on a Baltic Sea Cruise. We were on the Norwegian Star. Great Ship, and the Baltic Sea cruise was worth repeating.

The ship stopped in at Warnemünde and we wanted to see the Schwerin Castle. The Castle was rich with history and the walking tour was fun, including the time we were able to spend on the grounds outside the castle without a tour guides supervision. But what impressed us most was the time we spent in town, just wandering around, having coffee, and other tourist activities. We decided then to come back some day and spend more time.

Weinhaus Uhle

Entrance to Weinhas Uhle. Parking is available underground. Photo by Donald Fink,

On this latest road trip of Germany, we arrived in Schwerin on a Thursday. Our GPS took us to the front door of the hotel, but from there we needed a little help in getting around the block to the parking garage. The city center is oriented towards pedestrian traffic and barriers go up in many of the streets every morning at around 10:00 am, leaving just enough time for morning deliveries. The rest of the day in Old Town Schwerin belongs to foot traffic while people walk about and enjoy the town.

Fruit and Vegetables in Schwein

The farmers market also had a large assortment of fruit and vegetable for sale. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

And Schwerin was not just about tourism, although that seems to be a big part of its activities. During our stay, there was a street festival that took place, in spite of the rain and wind. On Sunday, there was a stage erected in the town square, and local kids, bands, and other local talents performed for their friends and neighbors. This was not the polished professional performances that would be brought in for tourists, but rather, it seemed like the locals entertaining themselves and families. On another day, the town square transformed into a farmer’s market with vendors selling breads, veggies, fruit, meats, and hand made goods. Again, this kind of activity seemed more appropriate for the local crowd and was fun for us to be part of it.

In spite of all the attention to local activities, we didn’t get the impression that the locals were trying to exclude tourists from their activities. It just seemed like they had additional things for the locals to do beyond the usual tourist attractions. There was a sense of community among the locals we saw attending these more locally oriented activities.

In the midst of all the local activities, it seemed that every other business in the old town area where we stayed was a coffee shop, restaurant, ice cream shop, or jewelry store, along with a mix of other tourist smart industries. There were several of those tourist trams to take people around town. You know the ones. They look like trains, complete with a tractor that looks like a locomotive, with a driver that speaks something similar to English.

Schwerin spent time in east Germany, as part of the German Democratic Republic, so it’s tourist industry as we know it has only been underway since 1990, when East and West Germany were reunited.

Golden Dome of Schwerin

The Golden Dome of Schwerin Castle dates between 1847 to 1857. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

The principal draw to the town is the famous Schwerin Castle, which was built in its current version between 1847 and 1857 by the Grand Duke of Mechlenburg-Schwerin, Frederich Franz II. There were several other buildings and fortresses built on the island where the Castle now stands, the earliest one dating back to as early as 942.

In 1990, after re-unification, Schwerin Castle was made the home of the State Parliament for the newly re-instituted German State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. This designation has helped to ensure that the castle is maintained in good repair and is open to the public. Parliament viewing is available when they’re in session, but there are also tours of the living quarters of the earlier Duke of Mechlengurg. There’s a museum as well as two restaurants on the property too. It’s probably not an all-day adventure to see this interesting building and its grounds, but you can certainly spend several hours enjoying all it has to offer.

Schwerin Cathedral

Schwerin Cathedral is the oldest surviving building in Schwerin. The original cathedral was built in the 1100’s and soon became too small. The present building was started in 1270 and added to over the centurys. Photo by Donald Fink.

We mentioned that tourism didn’t really get started in Schwerin until German Re-unification in 1990, but that’s not quite true. The Schwerin Cathedral, located near the Old Town center, was responsible for a great many pilgrimages throughout the centuries.

The original Church was built by Henry the Lion, Duke of Bavaria and Saxony around the time he conquered the area in 1160. The church was always a pilgrim’s church, dedicated to St. Mary and St. Joseph, but in 1222 a local ruler returned from Jerusalem with a drop of Christ’s blood. The church almost instantly became too small to handle the increase in pilgrims, and a new church was built. By 1270, the church had continued to grow and construction of the present cathedral began, doubling its size.

There were no stone quarries near Schwerin so the decision was made to build the church from bricks. This church is one of the first and still one of the largest structures in northern Germany to use the architectural style known as Brick Gothic, or Backsteingotik.

The Steeple, or Tower of the church is 117.5 meters (over 385 feet) tall. Inside is a massive pipe organ. Too bad we didn’t hear it play. Our understanding is that you can hear the organ in the summer months, on Mondays, at 2:30 pm. Okay, good to know.

We enjoyed our time in Schwerin. We didn’t see nearly as many castles as we had on our list because simply walking out the door and enjoying the town seemed to get in the way. That should tell you something about the town because we really like visiting castles.

When we visited Schwerin for the first time in 2015, we posted about the day trip here.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Travel, 1 comment
Düsseldorf at a Glance

Düsseldorf at a Glance

Düsseldorf is one of the larger cities in Germany. Located in the western portion of the country, it’s the capital of the German Republic State of North Rhine-Westphalia, which borders Belgium and The Netherlands on Germany’s western boundary. Since 1949, Düsseldorf has been considered the fashion capital of Germany, which explains all the seriously high fashion clothing stores we saw when walking through the ultra-modern downtown districts, looking for coffee. There are a little over 500,000 people living in the city limits, with about 100,000 of them transplants from other than Germany, but mostly from around the European Union.

Outdoor Cafes, AltStadt, Dusseldirf

In the Altstadt, old town, there are many outdoor cafes along the Rhine River. Photo by Donald Fink.

There’s a vibrant Old Town along the Rhine River, where we spent some time wandering the shops and cafes. We found a great American style steak house called Block Steak House. It turns out that they’re a relatively large chain of restaurants with locations throughout Europe. 

There was one Starbucks in town that we found. The Starbucks app lists one in Old Town, but it turns out that it’s closed, permanently. Interesting that the Starbucks app lists it as an open restaurant, but Google Maps lists it as closed.. Hmm. Still, we found another one that was open in a shopping mall in the Konigsallee fashion district, near the park, and less than a mile’s walk from our hotel.

Melia Dusseldorf

Melia Düsseldorf is a very modern hotel, conviently located about 15 minute’s walking time to the Konigsallee shopping area or a 15 minute walk to Altstadt, Old Town, through the Hofgarten, Park. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

While in Düsseldorf, we stayed in a Melia Hotel. Melia is a European hotel chain that we’ve used before with good results. We use them for the same reasons we use Holiday Inn Express in the States. We get loyalty points, which leads to free nights and therefore reduced overall costs, and we also have an expectation of quality. At Melia in Dusseldorf, we found a relatively modern building with clean, large rooms. There was good internet in the rooms that was included with the price of the room. The restaurant served buffet style breakfast that was not automatically included in the room price, but available for a nominal fee. They also served dinner, but we didn’t sample evening meals, preferring instead to find our meals outside in one of the many close-by restaurants. Parking was an additional €25.00 per day. We would normally be annoyed at the parking price, but having just left New York City where the price to park (assuming you could live through a car ride to the hotel) was a staggering $70.00 per night! It made Dusseldorf seem like a bargain.

From our hotel, all destinations led through the Hofgarten, the oldest park in Germany. The first portions of the Hofgarten were built in the 18th century. We transited the Hofgarten on our way to the Old Town, and on our way to Starbucks in the Konigsallee Shopping Area. In each case, the walk was just under a mile, and we only made it through a tiny portion of the park. In terms of beauty, the Hofgarten isn’t Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, nor is it Central Park in New York City, but it does have its appeal. If we lived in Düsseldorf, we would no doubt spend a lot of time relaxing there.

This is the very popular Konigsallee shopping area . Photo by Bonnie Fink.

Speaking of the Konigsallee, it’s a major upscale shopping district in the heart of Düsseldorf. It features world renowned clothing, jewelry, and just about every other fine shopping store you could want. It was a place where, if we needed a new pair of cuff links, we would certainly be able to find them, but we might have to think about the purchase awhile before committing the money. Of course, on this trip, we didn’t feel the need for new cuff links, so we just went to Starbucks.

We had a good few days in Düsseldorf. If we needed to go there again for some reason, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We enjoyed it like we enjoy pretty much any big, busy city. We found the people to be polite and friendly. They seemed to be used to tourists and our language challenges. Actually, most people we encountered spoke English. It was just kind of surprising that most of the people we interacted with were not native German speakers, but imports themselves.

Can we recommend Düsseldorf for other travelers? Sure, we used it as a base for travel to other locations in the immediate area. Düsseldorf is in the middle of some interesting historic places, and getting in and out of town was generally easy. Traffic was not as challenging as you might expect for a reasonably large city. Of course, at just over half a million people, it really isn’t that big. We aren’t big city people by our nature, but we found it easy to navigate, safe, and comfortable.

On our way to a laundry mat, we happened to walk through an area that seemed to be just a local neighborhood, just for locals. It was filled with shops, cafes, grocery stores and so on. We were as comfortable in that area as we were in the more touristy areas.

Our plan for now is to not return to Düsseldorf in the near future. We visited, enjoyed this city, and now it’s time to move on.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Travel, 0 comments