Heidelberg Castle with Friends

I mentioned in my In and Around Munich post that my cousin took me to see Neuschwanstein Castle. I was spoiled again when my friends who live near Stuttgart took me to Heidelberg to visit this charming German town and Heidelberg Castle, one of the most beautiful castles in Germany.

Heidelberg is located about 120 km north west of Stuttgart, right on the Neckar River. The town is known for Heidelberg University, Germany’s oldest university, founded in 1386, and the red sandstone ruins of Heidelberg Castle.

Heidelberg panorama by the Neckar River
Heidelberg panorama by the Neckar river: The Gothic Heiliggeistkirche church on the left, Marktplatz in the centre, and the Old Bridge on the right.

HEIDELBERG OLD TOWN

Upon arriving in Heidelberg, we strolled in the Old Town and admired the beautiful buildings. The Gothic Heiliggeistkirche church towers over the vibrant town centre Marktplatz. One can spend many days in this town to examine its architectural details. From the main square, we could see Heidelberg Castle standing on Königstuhl hill.

Heidelberg
Heidelberg Castle on Königstuhl hill in the background

HEIDELBERG CASTLE

To conserve our energy and time, we took the funicular from the ground level to Heidelberg Castle. Below are some of my photos during our exploration of the various buildings on the castle site. I organized them in chronological order with the earliest structure first.

The Ruprecht Building single-story, simple medieval structure was built under King Ruprecht I, who ruled between 1400 and 1410. It is the oldest surviving residential palace within Heidelberg Castle.

Rupretch Buidling at Heidelberg Castle
Surviving tower by the Ruprecht Building at Heidelberg Castle

The Powder Tower (aka the ‘Exploded’ Tower) was built under Prince Ludwig V, who ruled between 1508 and 1544. It once functioned as a gun turret. “Kraut,” or powder, specifically gunpowder, was stored in the basement. French mines destroyed the roughly 7-meter-thick wall during the war between 1688 and 1697.

The Powder Tower at Heidelberg Castle
The Powder Tower at Heidelberg Castle

The Hall of Glass was named for its magnificent second-story hall, once adorned with Venetian mirror glass. It was constructed by Prince Friedrich II, who ruled between 1544 and 1556. Its Italian arcades connect the two most beautiful buildings within Heidelberg Castle: the Friedrich Building (left) and the Ottheinrich Building (right).

The House of Glass at Heidelberg Castle
The Hall of Glass with its Italian arcades in the centre

The Ottheinrich Building was erected during the rule of Ottheinrich (1556–1559). The elaborate decorative figures on the stately facade were created by sculptor Alexander Colin. The roof was damaged by fire from French troops in 1693 and was finally destroyed by a lightning strike in 1764.

Ottheinrich Building at Heidelberg Castle
The Ottheinrich Building at Heidelberg Castle

The German Apothecary Museum has resided in the basement of the Ottheinrich Building since 1958. The castle admission ticket includes a visit to this interesting exhibition on the history of pharmaceutics.

Apothecary Museum at Heidelberg Castle
German Apothecary Museum in Heidelberg Castle

The Friedrich Building and its lavishly decorated facade was built during the rule of Friedrich IV (1583–1610) by his architect, Johannes Schoch, between 1601 and 1607. The electoral family lived on the two top floors. The attic floor was reserved for the servants.

Friedrich Building at Heidelberg Castle
The Friedrich Building at Heidelberg Castle
Statues at Heidelberg Castle
Statues at Heidelberg Castle

The Bell Tower seen next to Scheffel Terrace was originally constructed as a gun turret in the early 15th century. Over the centuries it was reinforced, built up, and finally converted into a bell tower and lookout tower.

The Bell Tower at Heidelberg Castle
The Bell Tower seen from Scheffel Terrace

The English Building was built between 1612 and 1614 during the rule of Friedrich V (1613–1619) for his English bride Elizabeth Stuart. The surviving window facade is on the left in the photo below.

English Building at Heidelberg Castle
The English Building at Heidelberg Castle
Facade details at Heidelberg Castle
Facade details at Heidelberg Castle

The Barrel Building was constructed in the 16th century. A giant barrel was installed in the building’s basement in 1591, holding 130,000 liters of wine. In 1664, it was replaced by an even larger barrel with 200,000 liters capacity. Nearly 100 years later, Prince Carl Theodor had the third and current Great Barrel constructed. 220,000 liters of wine were stored here.

After visiting the beautiful Heidelberg Castle, we strolled in the castle gardens, and took the stairs (some 300 steps) to get down to Heidelberg Old Town. Walking with my longtime friends made the descent from the summit seem shorter.

I’m hosting the Wellness Wednesday link up on August 14. The optional prompt is Friends with regards to how they affect our well-being. Since I’ve written my Health updates in my July Wrap-Up post, I’m sharing my wonderful outing in Heidelberg with my friends for Wellness Wednesday. Please click here to join in on the fun.

I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2019 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Day Trip to Salzburg, Austria

When I was in Munich in June, one of the day trips that my cousin and I took together was to Salzburg in Austria. Salzburg is known as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and home to the “Sound of Music”. Salzburg lies about 145 km south east of Munich. With the German ‘recommended’ highway speed of 130 km per hour, it took us just a little bit over an hour to get there by car.

Upon our arrival in Salzburg, the weather was sunny, warm, 32 Celsius, and humid. We managed to see five of the top sights in Salzburg: Hohensalzburg Fortress, Mozart’s Birthplace, Mozart’s Residence, Salzburg Old Town, and Salzburg Cathedral Quarter.

Hohensalzburg Fortress is the biggest fully preserved castle in Central Europe. Construction of the Hohensalzburg Fortress started in the year 1077 and ongoing development of the fortress architecture continued until 1500. The fortress is open year round and can be reached on foot or by funicular. It’s worth visiting if you’re interested in historical exhibits, including original furnishings from the year 1501/ 1502.

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Mozart’s Birthplace and Residence, both of which are now museums, provide a glimpse into his extraordinary childhood:

  • The yellow-walled Geburthaus (or Mozart’s Birthplace) at 9 Getreidegasse where Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 and lived there until 1773.
  • The soft pink-walled WohnHaus (or Mozart’s Residence) at 8 Markatplatz where he lived with his family from 1773.
Salzach River and Mozart's Homes

Salzburg Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located on the left side of the Salzach River which divides Salzburg into two halves. The pedestrian-only streets in the Old Town are lined with shops, all with decorative metal works above the entrances. We enjoyed exploring the maze of streets leading to and from several main public squares.

Salzburg Old Town

Salzburg Cathedral and Cathedral Square (Domplatz): Of its numerous churches, the cathedral is Salzburg’s most important sacred building. The façade is made of marble. Looking down from it are four monumental statues: Apostles Peter and Paul holding a key and a sword, as well as Salzburg’s two patron saints, Rupert and Virgil, clasping a salt vessel and a model of the church. The two statues at the top of the gable commemorate the two builders of the cathedral, Markus Sittikus and Paris Lodron. The cathedral interior is also stunning to see.

Salzburg Cathedral

Cathedral Square connects with Residence Square (Residenceplatz) which is surrounded by the Residence building (left in the photo below) and Salzburg Museum (right in the photo below).

In the centre of Residence Square is the beautiful baroque Residence Fountain created by the Italian sculptor, Tommasso di Garone. At the base of the fountain, four snorting horses seem to spring forth from the spouting rock. Giants rooted in the rock carry the lower basin, in which three dolphins balance the scalloped upper basin. The upper basin holds a Triton, a jet of water shooting into the air from his conch-shell trumpet. It’s truly magnificent artwork.

Residence Square and Residence Fountain in Salzburg

From Residence Square, we walked to Salzburg Market to pick up fresh snacks and to browse all kinds of food products, traditional folk wear, and souvenirs. Then it was time to head back to Munich.

Salzburg Market

I had a wonderful day trip to Salzburg. I hope you’ve enjoyed visiting (or revisiting) Salzburg through my lens.

I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2019 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

In and Around Munich, Germany

In June I visited my cousin and his family in Munich, the third largest city in Germany, about 585 km (363 miles) south of Berlin. I had visited Munich once before so on this trip, I set aside one day for sightseeing in Munich to revisit some of the main sights and to explore two new-to-me attractions (Munich Residence and Olympic Park). On the remaining days, my cousin and I made day trips to a few places located south east and south west of Munich and to Salzburg in Austria.

Below is a map with blue markers to give you an idea where we were. Munich is the top marker, Tegernsee and Chiemsee Lakes are near the centre, Salzburg is far right, Füssen and Neuschwanstein Castle are lower left.

Munich and the surroundings

SIGHTSEEING IN MUNICH

Marienplatz, located in the heart of Munich, is an optimal starting point to get to know the city. In 1854, this square was named after the Marian column that stands in the middle of it. On the day that I was there, the square was packed with people out to celebrate Munich’s 861st anniversary festival.

On the right in the photo below is the tower of the New Town Hall. At noon, the Glockenspiel chimes and the figures appear in the windows of the tower. Munich’s glockenspiel is the largest in Germany and the 4th largest in Europe.

On the left in the photo below, the two green domes belong to the Cathedral of Our Dear Lady (Frauenkirche) which dates back to the 15th century. The nearly 100-metre high towers (also known as the onion towers) are inspired by the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Marienplatz in Munich

I walked for a couple of hours re-visiting other main sights in Munich, such as Karlsplatz (Stachus), Odeonsplatz, and the Victuals market (Viktualienmarkt). The market has more than 140 stands and shops offering local and exotic products.

In the afternoon, I explored a new-to-me attraction: the Munich Residence (Residenz). The Munich Residence is the biggest inner-city palace in Germany. From 1508 to 1918 it served as seat of residence and government to the Bavarian rulers.

Statue in the courtyard at the Munich Residence

The various Bavarian rulers furnished and extended the rooms to suit their own personal tastes, engaging important artists for the purpose. Some of the most impressive rooms that I saw include the Antiquarium (photo below), Stone Rooms (Steinzimmer), the Green Gallery, and the Treasury (Schatzkammer) where crowns and jewels of the last 10 centuries are displayed.

Antiquarium in the Munich Residence

I was surprised at the inside size of the Residence, room after room on several floors, with huge amount of furnishings. Two words came to my mind “excessive opulence” as I kept walking and listening to the audio commentaries. The Munich Residence is well worth a visit and one would need at least three hours to see it all.

In the evening, my cousin and I went to Munich Olympic Park. We took the lift ride up to the 185-metre high Olympic Tower to see magnificent views over the city of Munich. It was a clear and calm night with a handful of visitors at the lookout level. We had a coffee break at the on-site revolving restaurant to soak in the views of the tented roof stadium, the BMW Museum, various sport facilities, and Munich by night. It was a beautiful end of this day in Munich.

Views from Munich Olympic Park Tower

DAY TRIP TO THE LAKES

On another gorgeous day, we spent time visiting the lakes near Munich. Tegernsee Lake is about 51 km south of Munich, and Chiemsee Lake is about 55 km east from Tegernsee Lake.

First stop was at Tegernsee Lake where we had a delicious lakeside brunch. On the platter was fresh pretzels served with cheese, eggs, cured ham, salami, and pickles. The Weisswursts (white sausages) are traditional Bavarian sausages made from minced veal and pork back bacon. They were served with sweet mustard and soft pretzels. The cappuccino came in a cute cup, just what I needed for the morning.

It was peaceful by Tegernsee Lake without any noise except the sounds of birds and water movements. After brunch, we walked around the lake perimeter for some exercise and enjoyed the lake views. The surrounding gardens, houses with timber sidings and hanging flower baskets were lovely.

Lakeside Seatings

In the afternoon we went swimming in Chiemsee Lake. The cool lake water was a refreshing relief from a warm and humid day with high temperature around 31 Celsius (or 88F). From the sandy beach, we could walk pretty far out into the lake as its slope was gentle and the water was so clear that we could see our feet.

Tegernsee

DAY TRIP TO FÜSSEN

Füssen is located about 133 km south west of Munich. It’s a pretty town, easy to walk around to explore the shops and local scenes. We strolled in the town centre for about an hour, took a coffee break, and picked up our reserved tickets at the Tourist Office to visit Neuschwanstein Castle.

Füssen Town Centre

VISITING NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE

Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most visited palaces in Europe, with around 1.5 million visitors a year. King Ludwig II based the design of the castle on the medieval paintings of Romanesque knight castles and an interpretation of the musical mythology of Richard Wagner, whom he admired greatly.

Construction of Neuschwanstein Castle commenced in September 1869 and never completed when the King died on June 13, 1886 in Lake Starnberg.

Neuschwanstein Castle

We booked our tickets in advance to avoid the long line up. The castle is easily reached on foot at a distance of 1.5 km with upward slope, mostly in the shades of the surrounding trees. Horse-drawn carriages are available for hire as well. Unfortunately the horse poops attract a lot of flies.

Ticket holders enter the castle as per the reserved time on their ticket to take the 30-minute guided tour in German or English. A tour guide walks the group through the castle to see the various rooms. Audio device is provided so everyone can hear the commentaries. No photography or video recording is allowed in the castle.

At first sight, Neuschwanstein Castle looks like a fairy tale with the green mountains in the background. I was most impressed with the Throne Hall and the amazing views from the castle, which includes a bridge above a canyon, the lakes, and Hohenschwangau Castle with its yellow walls.

Views from Neuschwanstein Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle

EATING OUT AT A BEER GARDEN

On a warm summer evening, my cousin and his wife took me to a local beer garden for dinner. Picnic tables and benches are set up under white umbrellas. Customers pick up their food and drinks from food huts and pay at the cash counters before sitting down. We shared roasted chicken, ribs, and warm pretzels which went down well with the local beer.

Beer Garden
Beer Garden food

I had a wonderful time in and around Munich. There are plenty to see and do in the Bavaria region. I was glad I could make this trip a reality and create new memories with my cousin and his family.

From Munich, we took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria. I also took the inter-city trains to Stuttgart to meet my friend and her husband and together we did more sightseeing. More on these day trips in my future posts. Stay tuned!

Thank you for travelling with me. I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2019 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Malta Highlights

When I was planning my trip to Munich, Germany, I wanted to add a second destination to optimize my trans-Atlantic voyage. Malta met my list of criteria and I was thrilled to visit this small country in the Mediterranean Sea:

  • A new-to-me country
  • Direct, two-hour flight from Munich
  • Rich in history and culture, with a few UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • English and Maltese are the official languages
  • Part of the European Union, use same currency as Germany (i.e. the euro)
  • Mediterranean climate and cuisine
  • Land and sea scenery and island lifestyle
  • A less expensive European destination

Malta is steeped in prehistoric ruins, tales of the Knights of St. John, and about 7,000 years of history. I spent six days exploring Valletta, the two harbours, the fortified Mdina, Gozo, Comino, and the Blue Lagoon. Gozo and Comino are two smaller islands that can be reached by ferry or cruise boat from Malta. Let the sightseeing fun begin!

VALLETTA

Valletta is Malta’s capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage site. To appreciate Valletta’s skyline and enjoy Malta from the water, I take the public ferry from Sliema to Valletta. Return tickets cost 2.8 euros. The comfortable ferry ride lasts about fifteen minutes. Service is frequent year-round. The city views from Marsamxett Harbour, including the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral spire, are priceless.

From the ferry terminal, I follow the signs to walk to Valletta’s city centre. I think the best way to explore Valletta is on foot, however, parts of Valletta are uphill or involve long stairs. There are tourist electric trains and horse carriages waiting outside the ferry terminal for people who prefer to take them.

Valletta Stairs

Valletta’s centre is easy to navigate with several main streets designated for pedestrians only. It is a lovely place to wander and be allured by the surrounding architectural beauty.

Clockwise Left to Right: St. John’s Co-Cathedral, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Valletta’s Bay Windows and Expressive Lion Faces.
Clockwise Left to Right: Entrance to the Grandmaster’s Palace (constructed in 1574), its gardens, Manoel Theatre (1732-present), and Auberge de Castille (1744-present).

For scenic views, I visit the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens and Hastings Garden. I think the two Barrakka Gardens are better lookout points than the Hastings Garden.

The Upper Barrakka Garden offers fantastic panoramic view of Valletta’s Grand Harbour and Fort St. Angelo. The system of bastioned fortifications was built by the Order of St. John between the 16th and 18th centuries, with further alterations made by the British in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Knights’ fortifications around the harbours of Malta are nominated for UNESCO designation.

Grand Harbour

The Lower Barrakka Garden greets its visitors with a beautiful temple, fountains, greenery, and benches. Walk through the garden to the open colonnade for a commanding view of the harbour and the Siege of Malta Memorial with the Recumbent bronze statue below.

Lower Bakkarra Garden

THE TWO HARBOURS

The two main harbours surround Valletta are the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour. I take a pleasant 90-minute cruise, departing from Sliema and cruising inside the ten creeks named Sliema, Lazzaretto, Msida, Pieta, Menoa, Marsa, French, Cospicua, Kalkara, and Rinella. Ticket price is 15 euros, or less if combined with other cruises.

The English commentary explains all the historical points of interest of the two harbours. Plus, the cruise boat gets me up close to see the Yacht Marina, the battlements and fortifications surrounding Valletta and Floriana, the Grand Harbour, the inner basin, the Malta Ship Building Yard, the Dockyard area, and the three cities (Senglea, Cospicua, and Vittoriosa).

THE MDINA

The 4000-year-old walls of the former capital, Mdina, stand on a mountaintop at the heart of the main island, Malta. Mdina’s imposing architecture is entirely preserved, and the city is a UNESCO-designated Urban Conservation Area today.

From Valletta or Sliema, a public bus ride costs 2 euros and takes about an hour to reach the Mdina. Entry to the Mdina is free of charge. The fortified Mdina, nicknamed the “Silent City”, is lined with stately palazzi, bastions, and a cathedral. Some 240 people still live here.

The Mdina is a pedestrian-friendly and nice place to wander, with small alleys fan out from its centre. Some of Malta’s best restaurants are tucked away inside Mdina’s ancient walls. Bastion Square provides panoramic views of Mostar and its huge dome, and Valletta with St. Paul’s iconic spire.

Clockwise Left to Right: Mdina’s Main Gate, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Views from Bastion Square.

GOZO

There are many boat cruises from Sliema to Gozo every day in the summer. The ride takes about two hours with two brief passenger pick-up or drop off stops in St. Paul’s Bay and Comino. The boat cruise arrival in Gozo’s Mgarr Harbour is timed with optional sightseeing tours of this beautiful island.

I visit the Inland Sea Cave, Fungus Rock, Gozo’s Citadel, Ta’pinu Basilica, Gozo’s market, and Mgarr Harbour. The boat ride into the Cave costs 4 euros. The water in and around the Cave is incredibly clear and its colour changes from deep sapphire blue to aquamarine to light green. The rock formations also show layers of amethyst, green, and yellow sand stone colours.

COMINO and THE BLUE LAGOON

Comino is a much smaller island than Gozo. It’s known for the Blue Lagoon and caves. You may have heard of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. Well, there is a Blue Lagoon in Malta, too.

There are boat cruises from Sliema or from St. Paul’s Bay to Comino. The ride takes about an hour or half an hour respectively. The Blue Lagoon entry is busy, however, if you walk further out, there are lots of secluded spots to enjoy the sun, sand, and swim.

FOOD

There is no shortage of good food to try in Malta. The local Maltese specialty is fenek (rabbit slow-cooked in garlic and wine) although seafood is popular. Of all the good meals I had in Malta, one of them stood out. It was the dinner at Gululu in Balluta Bay with Margie who is from the Netherlands. We met, we clicked, and went for dinner on her last day in Malta. We both ordered the Maltese-style chicken pizza. I enjoyed our hearty conversation, delicious food, and the lovely view of Balluta Bay that evening.

SHOPPING

Best buys are traditional crafts including hand-blown glass and lace, ceramics, silver and gold jewelry, metalwork, pottery, and tiles. I bought a pretty silver flower-shaped pin as a birthday gift for my cousin’s wife. I forgot to take a photo of it before the saleslady wrapped it up with a bow.

Aside from the usual souvenir items, what I find interesting is the variety of door knockers or door adornment in Malta. Here’s a sample:

Overall, I had a wonderful time exploring Malta. There are still many places to visit on this small island. I’d love to return in the future.

Thank you for reading my post. I hope you enjoy it and would love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2019 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.