A Very Bavarian Birthday

Neuschwanstein Castle - Germany

Well I’m 31 now. I’m into my 30’s officially. To be honest, I’m not feeling super great about it. I liked being 30 and wasn’t totally ready for that to be over. But oh well, no real choice about it, so I figured we should get on with the celebrating!

We debated on where to go for a while – a birthday in Paris would be so romantic, a birthday skiing in the Alps would be so exciting, or maybe Amsterdam? But turns out that Europe is stinkin’ expensive!! Just the train ticket to Paris is $350 Euros! And that’s before you get a hotel. And I’m quite certain that if I was in Paris for my birthday there is no hope of me stopping myself from going out to incredible meals, eating my weight in cheese and pastries and drinking ridiculous wine – that is to say it would have gotten really expensive really fast. Same goes for skiing (plus, the snow reports say there’s not any good snow yet).

So we decided to go to one of the “must see” sights in Germany – the Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s this gorgeous castle set up on a rugged mountain surrounded by gorges, and it’s right on the border of Austria in the beginning of the Alps. It was the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, you can really see the similarities.

Neuschwanstein Castle - Germany So that was the plan, but of course plans go awry! Its supposed to be a four hour drive to the castle, so we left early in the morning with plans to make to the castle, then spend the night in the hour-away mountain town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Oh important tidbit, while we didn’t get a white Christmas, we got a white day after Christmas… and every day since then! So there’s a good amount of snow already, and as we’re leaving it starts coming heavily down again. So our four hour drive turned into eight+ hours to get to the castle. We arrive there and park, but can’t see the castle because of the snow coming down. We go to buy tickets to go up, and learn that we got there 10 minutes AFTER the ticket office closed. So no princess castle for Lizzy on her birthday.

Snow Driving - Germany

Knowing it’s taken twice as long to drive as we had planned, we decide to leave for our hotel immediately since it’s going to take a couple hours and make the most of it. The drive was absolutely gorgeous and took us through Austria for the majority of the time. The snow was really fluffy and I just couldn’t help myself, when we got stuck in traffic I jumped out and made snow angels!

Snow drive to Neuschwanstein Castle - Germany

Snow drive to Neuschwanstein Castle - Germany The hotel was great and we quickly headed into town to grab dinner and figure out where to celebrate. We walked a couple blocks and found the “Grill und Wein” restaurant we were hoping for, and then found it was closed for the holidays, as were most of the other nice places in town. So what did we do??? Exactly what you do anywhere in the world when you’re celebration plans don’t work out… you find the Irish Pub! And there was one just down the street. After a birthday pint of Bavarian brew there, we went to grab pizza for dinner, promising our new Irish pub friends to be back shortly.

Birthday Bavarian style

After our quick dinner we returned to a big welcome from the Irish pub. Seriously, how is it that every Irish pub in the world consistently delivers a guaranteed good night?! We made lots of friends there and closed the place down at about 4:00 AM!

Birthday party

The next morning we were up early and ready to see this castle! We made it back to the castle and this time were able to get tickets AND we could see the castle from a distance. It definitely lived up to the hype!!

Neuschwanstein Castle - Germany It’s a 40 minute walk up the hill, which was like walking in a winter wonderland.

Neuschwanstein Castle - Germany

We took the required tour to see the inside and it was equally as impressive. Both Rick and I agreed that of all of the famous, historical buildings we’ve seen on this trip and others, this was our favorite! It’s beautifully made inside, and intricate and in great condition. Sorry, no photos allowed inside so I don’t have any share 🙁

Neuschwanstein Castle - Germany

King Ludwig II who built it was considered insane. I can see why from even just the exterior design, it’s so different from other castles. It took 23 years to build. The king moved in before it was completed… and good thing because he only got to live in it for one year before he died. King Ludwig was a recluse and built it for complete seclusion, the plan was for the castle to be “sacred and out of reach” from people… and only six weeks after he died the castle was opened to the public. It’s in the top three most visited places in Germany. Guess that didn’t work out so well for him!

It was pretty awesome to see. I’m really glad we visited while we were in Germany.

Neuschwanstein Castle - GermanySnow Flake

But I have to admit the 18+ hours of driving was kind of a beat down so it was really great to get lots of emails and Facebook comments from everyone back home! Thanks for making me feel special on my birthday! Cheers!Birthday Bavarian style

Christmas Time in Germany

Its feels really cold to us here, but we’re told it’s actually very unseasonably warm for Christmas time in Germany. Usually there’s snow on the ground, but since it’s in the high 30’s-40’s its just drizzle. But they’re reporting that we’re about to get some really cold weather – starting the 26th temperatures drop and there’s supposed to be heavy snow.

I’ve also gotten to cook while we’ve been here at Song’s – YEA!! I really did miss cooking, and Rick says he missed my cooking (although may be he’s just tired of eating Asian street food?). What was the first meal he requested? Chili of course! So I made a big pot of chili and Rick has eaten just about all of it already.

We are going to a friend of Song’s for Christmas Day. They are also Americans in the military stationed here. I’ve been emailing with Mel (our host) and she is going ALL OUT for the Christmas meal. And I’m excited to get to make some favorites to bring – mashed potatoes, lil smokie crescent roll wraps and a kale salad. It’s funny to look at that list of things and think I’m excited and proud to make them, since I’m usually trying to do something much more interesting, fancy, unique. But I think Rick and I are both craving some of the basics from home.

Speaking of which, we got to go to the BX and Commissary on the air force base, and it was awesome! It’s like a full American grocery store, Walmart and Macy’s all wrapped into one. It’s the first time we’ve seen products we’re used to in months! Plus being able to say I went shopping at the Commissary is just really cool. We have our official military IDs now too!


It has been so incredibly nice to have a “home” to be in for the last few days. We’ve been staying pretty close to “home”, plus there are cool castles and markets to see right around here.


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But after Christmas I think we’re going head out a bit further. I’m hoping we can either go to France or go skiing for my birthday. And Song has made plans for us to spend New Years in Brussels! I don’t know anything about Brussels, but we’re excited!

Since we hadn’t really planned to come to Europe, we don’t have any idea what to do or see in France or Belgium. (Germany has been easier since Song knows it really well). Any one have any suggestions for France or Belgium?

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas… in Germany!

We originally planned to be somewhere in Southeast Asia for Christmas, before heading to Africa. But while in Thailand we started missing the usual surroundings of Christmas season – the cold weather, the decorations, people getting into the holiday spirit. We also wanted to be around friends, people we knew at Christmas, not just strangers.

So we kinda went rogue! We started thinking about where we would be Christmas-y and where we knew people. And places that were somewhat on the way from Asia to Africa. Our friend Song came to mind. We had met him while trekking the Annapurna Circuit in September. It was a total shot in the dark, but we emailed and asked if by any chance he would be around and up for a couple of house guests. To our delight, he said “Come on!” So we booked our tickets for Christmas in Germany.

P1100475It’s been so much fun to hang out with Song and meet his friends. And Germany is the capital of Christmas Markets! We took an outing to a couple of Christmas markets. The first one was in Bernkastel-Kues, an adorable valley with vineyards all around, the drive was beautiful. It was a small market, but the town itself was so cute and festive. We had our first Gluehwein (pronounced Glue-vine), which is hot spiced wine. Thank goodness for it because the weather was COLD!! Maybe it’s coming from the beaches that makes it feel so cold to us, or maybe it’s that it’s damp and windy and there’s no sun. Either way, I was very happy to have hot wine!

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The next day Song took us to the Heidelberg Christmas Market. We got to see the lights up at the market and enjoy more gluehwein and some bratwurst. It was so much fun.


There were beautiful Christmas decorations everywhere! P1100505 P1100495Yesterday we were on our own since Song had to work. We planned to drive to Baden-Baden, but when were about halfway there we stopped for a coffee in this small town and the sweet owner of the shop told us there was a really nice old city we should see just ten minutes away, Wissembourg. We thought “sure, why not?” and reset the destination in the GPS. About ten minutes later we realized Wissembourg is actually in France! Its so crazy to us to be able to just drive over to another country.


The old town was beautiful and we decided to forget about Baden-Baden and just wander around Wissembourg.

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And since it was our first time in France, we couldn’t leave without getting some cheese and wine.


We headed back to meet up with Song for dinner, and enjoyed a really pretty drive through the German forests and hills. The countryside here is beautiful!

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