Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Germany: off the beaten path, a 2 week adventure, summary

April 2015

German Towns off the beaten track
that should NOT be missed:  
Munster, Koblenz, Oberwesel, Augsburg and more


Munster
Famous for bikes, great beer, churches and the woman in the tower, not the cheese.
A very friendly town with great walks and bike trails as well as a solar boat ride  Enjoy the lively farmers market in the church square, a cafe on the main pedestrian street or the great cakes in the oldest cafe in town.


Koblenz 
A compact town along the Rhine river you have train or boat access to more towns  where you can hike, bike visit castles and sample wines.   Traveling solo in Koblenz, take the cable car to explore the fortress, stroll the river walks and stop at a cafe.  Part of a designated region by the World  Heritage site, Koblenz has an amazing interactive museum located at the tourist office in town,   A visit to the Romanticum  museum will give you a great understanding of the history of this are and you can leave with an embedded 'card' that allows you to read the information you downloaded from the many displays in the museum.

Oberwesel  home of the wine witch, the Lorelei,  a walled city with towers, the commanding castle overlooking the town.     Do not be fooled by the river view of Oberwesel.  There is much to do, see and learn.   The perfect part of the Rhine river to explore the other river front towns via bike, train or boat.   The interactive Stadtmuseum is a great place to start your tour of Oberwesel and learn about all there is to see and do.   There is a great tourist office just off the market square and close to the boat dock.  Hop a train and arrive across from another must see stop,  the Church of Our Lady.  



Augsburg:   A short stop in Augsburg showed me there was a great deal more to see!   Visit the City Hall to see the golden ceiling, the Fuggerei, relax in the center square, stop in a cafe and do not miss visiting some of the amazing churches.




Heidelberg:   In the old town, I learned about brezels, visited the oldest candy store and a visit to the castle.   Some towns you may want to spend more time exploring.  Heidelberg offered so much to see and do.   This University town seems to be busy all day but there are many quiet spots to stop and have a coffee or brezel.




Wiesbaden  An easy solo travel destination where you can walk to most of the city sites and enjoy the long pedestrian shopping lanes.   Enjoy the hot springs fed spas and the great cafes and cake.  Don't miss visiting the Russian Church overlooking the city.




Regensburg   Many surprises and solo traveler tips.  Be sure to try the sausages, take a tour of St. Peters, cross the bridge, see one of the towers, take one of the tour boats and see the underground excavations.   A very easy solo city:  transportation, touring, eating and shopping.



Trier  The perfect size town, transportation, location, and  a wide range of great things to see and do. This University city has Roan ruins, UNESCO sites, the St Peter cathedral, river cruises, and lots of restaurants and shopping to keep you busy.   But don't forget the great museums.  My last stop on this magical trip.



Other Off the Beaten Track Stories you might enjoy:
Stumble Stones
Brezels
Billboard Artist
Munster:  The bike capital
Woman in the Tower
Castles, Cruises and Cake


Solo travel can teach you much.  Not just the history of a city but what makes a country original.
I learned about traveling via train in Germany
How to manage on Sunday when most businesses are closed

I shall return to Germany to finish research on river travel.   If you have traveled in Germany via river, share your experiences.


Thank you Historic Highlight of Germany for a well planned adventure and your hospitality.
The photos and opinions on each visit are my own opinions.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

London Free Light Show in the Shoe Store

Next to the Apple store in Covent Gardens in London is an amazing light show

                                          
                                            Feels like a rock concert in a shoe store




           This is Galleria Melissa, a innovative shoe store. 
According to their web site:  founded in 1971 and has since collaborated with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood, Gareth Pugh, the Campana Brothers and Zaha Hadid

 




 
Thanks to Maggie Dobson Owner, At Home in London  for finding this store for me
a great booking agent for places to stay in London

.

43 KING STREET
COVENT GARDEN
LONDON 
WC2E 8JS 


MON - SAT: 10AM - 8PM
SUN: 12NOON - 6PM

Website:MELISSA.COM

Friday, October 9, 2015

Trier Germany, last stop on Off the Beaten Path solo trip



Trier, Germany 
A university town that is easy to navigate with 
so much to see and do.

The ancient Roman gate to the city, the Constantine Basilica and the Roman baths are reminders to the far reaching Roman empire and how much history I have viewed during my 2 weeks in Germany.   



Trier sits on the Moselle river on the western side of Germany. According to Wikipedia, Trier may be the oldest city in German.

Porta Nigra



Renovation and preservation work allows visitors to walk in the interior rooms of the Roman Gate.   Patrolling soldiers had a view of all points.


  .

 
You will find the tourist office just behind the Roman arch.   Here is your source for maps, tour information and souvenirs all in one place.  There is a WC in the courtyard in back of the TI, nominal fee.




My guide  Ms Berens started our adventure at the black gate, Porta Nigra,  the Roman entrance to the city.

Old and new is well mixed throughout the city.    Large avenues and many pedestrian friendly street take you to all the major sites in the city with open plaza, fountains and city benches.

The main pedestrian street begins at the Roman gate and will keep a traveler occupied.  My orientation tour began in the fortress and continued through the streets of Trier. The main pedestrian street is wide and lined with shops and restaurants. This is where you can catch the tourist train (bus) and meet for city and theme tours.   

Our first stop is the Cathedral of St Peter

There was a special event during my stay that brought hundreds of young people to the cathedral. As usual, I found something that I thought was unusual and stopped for a mini video.  Again I thank the patience guides during this adventure in Germany,  trying to understand some of the strange questions I asked as a solo traveler.

The colorful ribbons each held an intention or a wish or perhaps a thank full prayer.  Each ribbon was tied to the metal frame and the total impact was mesmerizing as the breeze made them flutter.




Trier Cathedral, Dom St Peter
The Cathedral complex includes the Gothic  Church of Our Lady to the right of the cathedral.
The cathedral is massive but when you enter the church your focus is on the elevated sanctuary that holds the Holy Robe.   It is only on display on rare occasions.

No photos were allowed and the robe said to be worn by Jesus, kept in this special room, was not on view.   There was a quiet reverence in this room.










The gates leading to the Jesuit church where priests were removed during the Nazi occupation.   You find 'stumble stones' out front, listing the seven priests who were sent to the concentration camps.


  
This Moroccan style tower house has a second floor door that.  Originally a removal staircase was used for security.



The main market square, Hauptmarkt, on the pedestrian route had a market on two of the days I was in Trier.  Also, another public WC.




I have never seen Woolworth outside of the USA and took a quick look.    It was similar to a Euro store (our dollar stores).  Gone were the tables of everyday items I remember in our local Woolworth's: cosmetics, toys, household supplies.
Everywhere you look in Trier there are great opportunities for a snack!


  Dinner with my host Trier Marketing.








My Extra Day in Trier:

The tourist office brochure listed a wide assortment of things to do in  Trier.  Actually far more than I have ever seen at other tourist offices.   English language  tours are offered during the 'high' tourist season.    


Trier has a short river sightseeing cruise.  If you are visiting one of the other rivers with castles and medieval villages, I suggest you wait.   Today the small boat was full of school children who were bored for the short hour long trip.   



The river this day was 'quiet' and on the short trip I took there were no castles or ruins.









Another  Galeria Kaufhor (see post under Regensburg)  offers a large restaurant where you can choose a vegetarian meal, hot or cold dishes and an amazing desert selection.  Solo diners have no pressure to 'turn a table' and the sun filled room is most pleasant.
If you are not a shy solo traveler there are wonderful restaurants all over Trier.   

Of course you could select desert first!



Note:  my hotel tried hard to find me a laundromat within walking distance.  Only one near the University was  in business.   It was an easy walk just past the Karl Marx house however, my host offered to go with me  (when the wifi did not work, trains went on strike and I had no arrangements to leave town precipitated my first and only meltdown  after 25+ years of travel).

The hour spent doing laundry in a foreign country can be interesting.  First you must understand the instructions in a language you may not speak.    Manage the correct change and wait.  Often you can find someone for a pleasant chat.

Now I have a mini video for reference on how to do laundry in Trier.
video



Trier has a convenient train station within walking distance of the center of town.  There is a shopping center near the train station where you can stock up for travel supplies or snacks for the trip.
(facing the station the entrance to the mall is to the right about  1/2 block)

I missed several other  parts of Trier when I spent too many hours trying to find the river boat:
The Constantine Basilica
The Elector's Palace
The archaeological museum
Imperial baths
Karl-Marx museum

I did walk through the extensive Palace Garden, a perfect place for a picnic.

Trier has a young population due to the University and the plaza in front of the  Roman gate is a popular gather spot.   However, I have no idea what game they were playing, do you?

video




I was the guest of Trier marketing and appreciate their expert planning of my entire adventure as well as additional help during a train strike.     I had a lovely stay at Hotel Casa Chiara.  
Photos are the property of www.maturesolotravel.com.

*The German Way & More:  Trier


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Regensburg: a Unesco World Heritage Site seen on a solo trip


Regensburg, off the beaten track in Germany, traveling solo



A wonderful city to walk the lanes and avenues, even if the sky is overcast.   Arriving by train in the morning gave me almost an entire day to become oriented to the city.   Day two I would visit many of the locations my guide, Michaela Ederer from Regensburg Marketing, suggested to me.  




Leaving Hotel Central Regensburg my tour took us down cobbled streets of shops, restaurants and apartments.    You imedaitely notice how clean and well kept German towns are.  Regensburg is a Unesco World Heritage City with most of the  the old town within this designation   I found there is far more to see than you can do in two days, plan to stay longer.
.


This charming bakery is the only one to supply rolls for the famous sausage restaurant we visited.
 (see below).   A steady stream of local shoppers proved it was very popular.
The spire of St Peters can be seen over the roof tops

The Cathedral of St Peter, another amazing structure that always makes me pause to think 'how was this done?"



                                                     The organ pipes are massive.








                       On a sunny day I am sure the colored glass windows are stunning.




Let them eat Cake:    I asked in each town I visited for the oldest or best known bakery or a cake that was considered 'the signature cake' for that town.   Prinzess Cafe, "Regensburg's first address for chocolates, coffee and fine pastries" as per their web site, is considered the best.





The window display gave me a hint of the treasures inside.
There was a massive display inside on chocolates and candies.  These are chocolates you select individually and carry the in a box.    The cakes were just as impressive.    





The mad hatter:   Andreas Nuslan leads the 100+ year old family company Der Hatmacher.  As we passed the colorful windows I had to stop when I saw the hat created for Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland!     
I made a second visit the next day and toured the extensive displays on two floor.    The process of making hats by hand is very intensive, hand labor.   The company web site states they are still using the old traditional 'englische Zuriche'.  "This rare technique is only possible with direct manual labour.  and only with this complicated process, which includes between 60 and 80 working steps, can the felt become strong and stable".     It would be amazing to watch a hat being created.  You can see this on the web site video.



A large selection of pins that can be added to your hat.  There were pins for almost any hobby or affiliation
My visit was just after Easter so there was a colorful array of headwear




One of the staff who kindly told me about some of the styles.    



Local Artisans:  Often a city or town will specialize in a craft or traditional arts.   Visiting artists shops often give a perspective that you won't find in a large store.   Regensburg has Kunsthandwerk Orignial.  This small shop showcases hand crafts and art work by locals.   



 I was tempted by many of the fine pieces but limited suitcase space and another 8 weeks on the road encouraged me to select a hand made wooden pen.



 SAUSAGE with sweet mustard
Not much to look at from the exterior this small waterfront stand, the historic Wurst-kuchel, was packed earlier in the day.   When I returned to try one of the sausages late in the afternoon, I was the only person there.




A shortened summary from Wikipedia gives some of the history of this well known stop for sausage:  "The Historic Sausage Kitchen of Regensburg is perhaps the oldest continuously open public cookshop in the world."  "First as a construction office for the building of the stone bridge you can view from the patio out front, it became a favorite over the centuries".   .
In addition to the walk up stand with a few inside tables, there is a more formal restaurant across the patio.   Note:  perhaps because it was the end of another long day, don't expect a chatty staff or any explanation on where your are allowed to sit.  My sausage was handed to me on a plate but I was told I could NOT take the plate to a table or to the outside stand up site.    I will need to research this before I return to try more.


The room to the left of the kitchen has tables and benches.  I did not see any wait staff.

In this tiny room two woman grill hundreds and hundreds of sausages



The secret is the sweet mustard.
I rarely eat sausage and never hot dogs so I was surprised at the first bite.

IT WAS WONDERFUL

The sausage is served on a caraway flavored roll from the bakery mentioned earlier and sauerkraut.

At the end of day two I met my guide again for dinner at a traditional Germany restaurant: Weltenburger am Dom, in the center of town near the Cathedral.   This is a large restaurant and a solo diner will have no problem finding a table early in the evening.



                You can tell from our meals the portions are LARGE.   And so are the potatoes.






So Much More to See:
There are many other important sites to see  and you will find better details on any of these from tourist office in Regensburg.  The staff here were perhaps the most friendly and helpful group I have encountered in my last 2 trips to Europe.   

Some of the other places I visited:
The snuff museum:  What a fascinating history of snuff.   The original setting, tools and factory take you back in history.

World Heritage Visitor Center:  World Heritage sites are on the top of my travel list but this was the first visitors center I have seen.  It is located in the old salt warehouse at the foot of the old bridge and across from the sausage restaurant.   A large tour arrived when I did so I was unable to see much of the exhibits.  However the staff is very helpful, you will find maps of the city and other publications  NOTE:  on the first floor there are lockers you can rent and a free WC

The Palace Tour:   Thurn & Taxis Palace   I was the only English speaker on the tour but an audio tour that follows the guide is available for rent.  Yes, you miss a lot of additional information but the guide was open to any and all questions in both languages 

The church of St Emmerem next to the palace is a great photo opportunity 

St Peters Church:  If there is a tour available or if the choir is performing, try to schedule your visit to enjoy either or both.  NOTE:  the map in the church indicates a WC.  However, only the porter has access to open the door.

One of the first cities where I learned about Stumble Stones.

 Other things I would have enjoyed: 
  • crossing over the Stone Bridge to see another part of the city
  • taken any or all of the boat excursions to spots outside the city (at this time of year there were fewer available and the weather was very wet for a boat trip)  particularly to Walhalla
  • Visiting any of the countless museums
  • Visit the 'oldest' knife maker in the city
  • Tour/visit of the theater
  • The Scottish Church or Schottenkirche:  I do love those carvings
  • Visit the interior of any of the remaining towers
  • Seen by tour guide only is an underground exhibit, Document Neupgarrplatz.   Archaeological excavations from Roman times to a WWII air raid shelter
and much more

Solo dining:  In addition to the many cafes, market stands near the center square and restaurants, the large Galeria Kaufhof  department store has a top floor restaurant with an outdoor patio.  Even though the weather was not pleasant it was lovely to sit overlooking the rooftops.  (WC on this floor is free) 


  
The well stocked book store  Bucher Pustet  in the Old Town has a small café on the first floor where you can sit for awhile


  

Across from the entrance to the Palace is another museum with a lovely outdoor café.  Indoor seating also available.  WC to left of the courtyard.

EVERYTHING apparently closes on Sunday in Germany.   This requires some planning if you like to shop or need an item you did not bring with you.   I found the self service machines in one location very interesting.  In addition to coffee, drinks and some food items the machines sold toilet paper.


Juice and toilet paper
Soup as well as hot drinks 
something for a last minute meal?



My host laughed when I expressed such excitement about the policy in Regensburg to promote locations where the use of the WC is free.   No purchase is necessary to use a bar or restaurants facilities when this sign is displayed.  A donation is welcome to defray costs of added use.

This is an idea I hope will spread 



Note:  the train station is across from this massive mall, Regensburg Arcaden, if you need to replenish travel supplies.  The small information booth had a map of the city so I could find my hotel. There is also a free WC in the mall and lots of fast food outlets to pick up a sandwich for the train trip.  The mall closes earlier than USA malls, I believe 7 or 8 pm and it may also be closed on Sundays.




I want to thank Regensburg Marketing for hosting my trip and sharing their wonderful city with me.  my tour guide was kind and very accommodating to answer my countless questions about solo travel is this city.  
The opinions are my own and all the photos are the property of Mature Solo Travel.