Saturday, February 24, 2007

Where do we go from here?

Since I have been posting lots of travel stuff, I am going to make one more post on the topic. Then I may go back to my random stuff. So anyway, when John and I moved to Ireland, we made a list of places we wanted to visit while here. We have been to some of the places but I have lost the list. Therefore we made a new list. However, we don't think the list is really complete. So, here is where we have been in Europe (outside of Ireland):
  • Norway, south western part
  • Barcelona
  • Madrid
  • Munich (2 times)
  • Brussels/Brugge
  • Venice and the Italian Alps
  • Salzburg
  • London
In Ireland we have been to:
  • Giant's Causeway
  • Galway (soon to be twice)
  • Cliffs of Moher (soon to be twice)
  • Kerry (but need to go back)
Our list thus far has:
  • Paris (planning a long weekend in May)
  • Rome (thinking end of October)
  • Prague
  • Budapest
  • Snowdonia
  • Scotland
  • Naples
  • Vienna
  • Amsterdam
  • Istanbul
  • Greece
  • Finland
  • Switzerland
  • Luxemburg
  • Belgium (want to see more than Brussels)
  • Egypt (OK, not in Europe but close)
  • Non Bavarian parts of Germany
  • Sweden
  • Croatia (Dubrovnick and the national parks)
  • France
  • Monoco
  • Various parts of Eastern Europe
Ok, that is a long list and we will have to stay a while or just take a career break to make a dent in that list! So, dear readers, here is the question for you. Have you been to any of these places? If so, did you like them? Also, is there anywhere that you would recommend as "must see" for either a long weekend or a longer trip (usually 10 days is our longest).

Airport Security

Since moving to Europe, we have traveled a lot. That means that we have been through a lot of different airports. As I think I have written about in the past, security at different airports varies hugely. Some places have you take your shoes off. Some don't. Some places want cameras outside of your usual bag while other don't. Some places have high metal detection settings, others seem not to. Recently, my bra (along with my zippers and button on my trousers) actually set off the metal detector. I then got security frisked for setting of the detector. While getting security frisked, I got wanded with another metal detector which said items again triggered.

Recently, we were traveling and had to wait over 2 hours in the security line! I have never had to wait that long before. There were a few problems with this. One, obviously lots of people either missed their flights or flights were significantly delayed. Two, the lines weren't well organized. At this particular airport, people were in a "line" that was many people wide. So, when the line area narrowed, you got this massive bottleneck. Then, it widened back out again and formed two different lines. These two lines then formed back together into one line. Can you say clusterfuck? So, in addition to the logistics of creating the line, the barricades, line former things were also temporary. Therefore, people would get tired of waiting and move the line marker. Then, a bunch of people would rush the line and effectively cut. The security people would then reprimand them and put the line thing back up. However, this created really cranky passengers. We made it to our plane on time because we actually allowed the 2 1/2 hours for the international flight and the plane was delayed since most planes were by the line mess.

At another airport, I had a backpack with 2 cameras, 2 mp3 players, and some chargers for the various electronics in it. I carry these onto the plane almost all the time. They got security checked very carefully. By carefully, I mean a guy put gloves on and used a card to swipe the whole backpack and then put it into a machine to make sure there were no powders on it. The same bag and contents at another airport got me a sideways glance, a look up and down, and a wink. That was their security.

At yet another airport, my camera got inspected. I have been to this airport twice now. Both times my digital SLR got extra attention. The first time the security person asked me to show him my pictures. This time, the security person us turn on John's camera and he looked through the LCD screen to see that it was working. He then asked us to turn on my camera. We did and the guy seemed very confused as he kept looking at the LCD screen. I have my camera set up so that I only use the viewfinder to take pictures. Because the screen wasn't on (and I don't know how to turn it on), he said he had to take a picture! So, he had us stand together and took our picture!

As anyone who has travelled knows, the liquids allowances have changed since the bomb threat. Airports and airlines also differ on this. Some airlines will allow you to bring in hot beverages that have been purchased in the airport. Others won't. Some airlines will let you bring on large bottles of water to drink on the plane as long as they were purchased in the airport. Others will let you bring them on but not drink them (they stay in their duty free packages)! Also, what counts as a liquid has some variability. If you get a guy, lipsticks are less likely to count towards the liquids allowances (I know that is sexist but it is true from my sampling of airport security). Also, some airport security staff will seize some liquids/gels/pastes if you have put too much in your approved clear plastic bag/packed the bag full. That is not the spirit of the allowances. I am not sure what happens to all the confiscated stuff but I'd like to know. Anyone know out there?

With all the changes to security, I have heard a lot of people complaining. I don't really mind. OK, I would like to be able to take water onto the plane that doesn't cost three times the usual price but if it actually helps security, it is just part of the process of flying. We certainly haven't changed our travel style because of the security measures. We are really glad that we went to Italy when we did, however, since we brought 6 bottles of wine back on the plane!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Residenz

On the last day of our trip to Munich, we saw the Residenz where the kings of Bavaria used to live. Parts of the building date back to the late 1300s! Unfortunately, part of it was also destroyed in the War. It was quite a grand place. Unfortunately, we didn't really get to see the whole thing or the jewel area because it closes early in the winter. What we did get to see was magnificent.

One of the rooms was an antiquities room. In it there was a burial crown from John the Baptist! There were other important artifacts as well, mostly of religious significance.

HIking around

While at Neuschwanstein, we did a bit of hiking even though the trails were closed. The day that we went to the castle was dreary and rainy. It had also been cold so there was snow and ice on the trails. Undaunted, we still trekked on. We really wanted to get to the bridge that gives the best views of the castle. Finally, we made it to the bridge and it was a wonderful view.

On the way back, it started to rain more. The trails got slipperier. At one point, John was holding onto the railing on the trail in order to keep from falling. At another point when we were going downhill, we got to a particularly icy patch. I could feel myself falling so I sat down on the ice and bum shuffled over to the side that wasn't as icy. We then hiked on down to the bottom.

Towards the bottom of the trail, we found a scarf that looked hand knitted. We picked it up to take it to the ticket center. However, the ticket centre was closed by the time we got there so we ended up bringing it back with us. I feel bad that I have someone's scarf but I didn't want to leave it on the trail.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Neuschwanstein grounds

The area that Ludwig's castle is in is gorgeous. It is near Swan lake and the castle that he grew up in. We did a bit of wandering around and I would love to go hiking around there during the summer.

Fairy Tale Castle

While in Munich, we decided to take a day trip to Fossen to see Neuschwanstein Castle, commonly knows as either the Disney castle or the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang castle. It was built by King Ludwig II (known as Mad King Ludwig) who is known for bankrupting the country to build fairy tale castles. Our guide said that he didn't bankrupt the country, just himself, though. He was also known for being insane. This is also disagreed upon since he apparently was given cocaine for tooth pain and then starting drinking heavily.

So, there is still controversy around his reign. Even how he died is unknown other than he drown under mysterious circumstances. Anyway, we took a guided tour there. A little ways into the "tour" we realized that we shouldn't have paid for the tour part since it used public transport the whole way. We could have easily navigated ourselves there and back. Oh well, the guide was interesting and seemed to know a good bit about Ludwig and this way we didn't have to figure out all the time tables (but we really aren't organized tour people).

We took a tour of the
Neuschwanstein Castle but didn't have time to tour the castle Ludwig grew up in, which was across the way from his castle. The Neuschwanstein was never finished as Ludwig died. Also, Ludwig was apparently obsessed with Wagner so there a lot of scenes on the walls from his operas. There is also a concert hall in the castle (and a little cave).

The tour of the castle was quite quick. During the summer, there must be tons of tourists that come to see the castle because there were three lines set up outside the castle and you had to wait until your number/time was called before you were allowed in. The guide moved you through the rooms quite quickly and there was someone waiting to close the door behind you. There are also two shops. Our tour guide (not castle guide) told us that the second one was cheaper. We didn't really look at either one since we wanted to go wander around the grounds.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


On John's birthday, we went to see his favorite art museum in Munich: the Lenbachhuas. It is in an old palace/villa type building so the building itself is quite grand. They had a wide collection of art but seemed to focus on artists from the Blue Rider group which formed in Munich. The walls in some of the rooms were also quite intersting as they were painted in funkey ways. Some of the rooms had colored walls (which I used to tell John that walls don't have to be white to hang art on). Other rooms had designs on the walls. The museum also had a section that was still decorated the way it would have been when the original owner lived there. The artwork in that section was much older and the lights dimmer. It was quite grand.

Toy Museum

Since we didn't get to see the toy museum last time we went to Munich, we went this time. The museum was really interesting and had a lot of old teddy bears in it. Some of the bears had notes from former owners asking the museum to take their beloved bears. The ads say there were over a 100 teddy bears in the museum. There were other toys, too, including a model of the Hindenburg and model trains. All in all, it was a nice way to spend a couple hours.