Take 12 trips, take 2!

Madeira sunrise

Remember when I took 12 trips in 2013/2014? No? Well, click on the link to see what I’m on about.

After seeing that other people have committed to taking 12 trips a second and even third time, I decided I could do it again, too. So 2016 shall be the year of take 12 trips, take 2!

Since the year is not quite two months old, I’ve decided to go back to the beginning and make it a twelve trips in 2016 thing rather than doing it over two year as last time.

Trip number one, for January 2016, is the day I went to Zurich to see a Lego exhibition. (Funnily enough, one of my trips last time round was to a Playmobil exhibition in Speyer. Could this be a theme in the making?).

Trip number two is that time Jan and I spontaneously went to Arlesheim to look at the cathedral and ended up finding two castles as well!

Trip three, in March, shall of course be New Zealand – I expect that will be my one major trip out of the twelve!

As for where else I might go… well, you’ll just have to wait and see! (Mainly because I don’t know myself.)

 

The original instigator of Take 12 Trips was Clare from Need Another Holiday. She wanted to encourage people to get out and about and try new things, not just big adventures to far flung places, but little trips to. Whether it’s afternoon tea at a local cafe you’ve been meaning to try out for ages, a day out in a nearby town or a month-long holiday in Asia – a trip is whatever you define it as.

Why not take the challenge with me?

Two castles and a cathedral

On Saturday the sun was shining for the first time in what felt like weeks, so we thought we’d better make the most of it and go out for the afternoon (and it’s a good job we did – on Sunday the rain was back!).

I suggested that we could take a trip to Arlesheim in Basel-Landschaft to see the cathedral, which is famous for being the only “Dom” in Switzerland. For those who don’t speak German, I shall explain. Dom means cathedral, and the one in Arlesheim certainly isn’t the only cathedral in Switzerland, but the others are either called Kathedrale – as in the Kathedrale St. Mariä Himmelfahrt in Chur – or Münster (minster), such as the Basler Münster (Basel Minster). Not that I’ve personally ever understood the difference between a minster and a cathedral even in English, but there you have it!

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Arlesheim is a cute little village – well, of course it’s cute, this is Switzerland! I’ve yet to see a village that isn’t cute! The cathedral itself is also kind of cute – it doesn’t look big enough to be a cathedral! But I suppose size isn’t a criterion. I felt kind of bad taking photos inside because everyone else in there seemed to actually be praying. It didn’t stop me though… I just tried to take my photos respectfully.

After visiting the cathedral, which obviously didn’t take long, we decided to try and find a castle that we had spotted from the tram on the way to Arlesheim. It turned out to be very close to the village, at the top of a hill. To get there, we had to walk through the Erimitage (Hermitage), which you would expect to be some kind of religious building where hermits went to be along, but in this case is actually a landscaped garden. Apparently the original garden, which was destroyed, contained things like a suspension bridge, artificial tower ruins and a waterfall. These days, it’s basically a hill with steps that lead through various caves. It still looks pretty cool though!

The castle turned out to be Schloss Birseck. We couldn’t go inside because it’s not open yet (and wouldn’t have been on a Saturday anyway). The opening times are May to October on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.

The Birs, by the way, is a small river – a tributary to the Rhine – and Eck (or Ecke) means corner. So presumably the castle is in a corner of the Birs. There’s also an area of Basel called Birsfelden, meaning Birs Fields.

Across the road from Schloss Birseck, we saw a sign pointing to Burg Reichenstein, another castle. After about a 10 minute walk – during which I very much regretted my choice of thick tights and a winter coat (the temperature was more like mid-September than early-February!) – we found this second castle.

A sign on the gate told us that a private function was currently in progress at the castle and only invited guests were allowed in, so after taking some photos of the outside we headed back down the hill via a different route, this time through the woods. My research tells me that, while you can book the castle for events, it’s not generally open to the public. There is a picnic area beside the castle with a public grill for barbecues – you just bring your own meat and (I presume) coal!

On a sunny day, Arlesheim and its surrounding castles are well worth a visit, and there’s even the option of taking a slightly longer walk (about 30-40 minutes) through the woods to visit a third castle – the ruins of Schloss Dorneck in nearby Dornach. In fact, I might even suggest that to Jan as a hike for us at some point…

Okay, that’s enough advertising Basel-Landschaft as a tourist destination for one day 😉 It’s time for lunch!

A walk to Mariastein Abbey and Landskron castle ruins

It’s time for another entry in my series of “persuade everyone that Switzerland is worth visiting” posts 😉

Before I came to Switzerland, I joined a meetup group for Basel. We’ve been to a couple of the meet ups, but have yet to really “click” with anyone in a manner that would lead to further meetings outside of the group. However, last time we were there, one of the other members suggested Mariastein Abbey as a good place for an afternoon out. When we decided to get out of the flat for a bit yesterday evening, we remembered this advice and decided to check out, so we hopped on a number 10 tram and headed off to Flüh from where we walked the roughly half an hour to Mariastein (there’s also a bus if you don’t feel like the exercise). First, some photos from the walk up. Jan told me not to take the one of the garden full of gnomes, but how could I not?

Apparently, the Mariastein Abbey is the second most important pilgrimage site in Switzerland. People come from far and wide to worship there. Obviously we couldn’t go into the actual abbey since it’s full of monks, but the basilica is open to the public and the inside is gorgeous! There were so many little details that I just couldn’t stop taking photos! Apologies in advance for picture overload…

We decided to take a different route down, which took us into France. When we realised that the ruins of Landeskron castle – which we had seen a sign for on the way up – wouldn’t take us much out of our way, we decided to go there. The castle stands on the border between France and Switzerland and is owned by both countries. From the top, you can see Germany, France and Switzerland but don’t ask me which is where! The only thing I can reliably recognise is Basel (thanks to the Roche tower). The light was really too bright at the castle, so it was pretty much a case of keep changing settings, pointing, clicking and hoping for the best. I’m afraid I did rather a lot of clicking. What can I say… I love castle ruins! Again, I apologise for the number of photos. And believe me, this isn’t even all of them. I reluctantly narrowed them down for this post 😉

On the way back down from the top of the castle, I spotted some bees enjoying the flowers. Obviously I had to photograph them too!

We then walked back down to Flüh via the woods, took a tram home and enjoyed a well deserved dinner!

There’s not a huge amount to do at either Mariastein or Landskron, but it was perfect for our requirements – a chance to stretch our legs and something interesting to look at along the way. The walk was fairly easy and I’d say most people could probably do it. There are a few restaurants next to the abbey where you could stop for something to eat or drink, or you could stop for refreshments in Flüh – it only took us about 15 minutes to get back down from Landskron.

And once again, I can’t believe such beauty is pretty much on my doorstep (although Flüh is in canton Solothurn, so slightly less on my doorstep than other places).

I’m linking this post up to Monday Escapes with My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase. To see where everyone else’s travels are taken them this week and add your link, click the button below.

My Travel Monkey

A day in the Black Forest

After a day in Strasbourg and a day in Basel, on the Friday of my brother’s visit, we decided to just relax. After a lie in, we made crumpets for brunch, went out for a round of mini golf then, in the evening, my friend came over and we watched How to Train Your Dragon as I hadn’t seen it before and said friend had asked me to go to the cinema with her the following week to see the second one. Saturday was back to day trips! Having been to two different countries, I thought it was about time to see some of the local(ish) area, so we headed off into the Schwarzwald. Our first stop was Neuenbürg, or rather the castle above the town.

Black Forest
Looking down from Neunbürg castle

When we arrived, the castle museum in the main building wasn’t open yet, so we went and had a look at the ruins of the “Hinterburg” (literally “back or behind castle), an older building that was presumably used before the present-day castle was built. My photos of it are terrible! Sorry about that…

Once we’d finished exploring the ruins, we decided to head for the restaurant for a coffee while we waited for the museum to open. Once we were brought menus, we decided that, actually, we might as well have lunch since it was already after 12. We each chose to have a Pfanno – a speciality of the restaurant that’s somewhere between a pancake, a pizza and an omlette. It has too much egg to really be a pancake, and it tastes a lot like an omlette, but itthe savoury ones looked kind of like a pizza with the toppings. I went for the tuna version while my brother went for a sweet version with apple and cinnamon. Jan had the Elsass style one (not pictured), which basically had traditional Flammkuchen style topping – bacon, onions and creme fraiche. They were tasty, but very filling! I couldn’t actually finish mine.

By the time we’d finished eating the museum was open and it was also starting to rain (the only time we had bad weather throughout my brother’s stay!), so inside was a good place to be! The museum begins with a retelling of a fairycalled “Das kalte Herz” (The Cold Heart). To go with the stories, there are wood carvings and light sillhouettes of the various characters. My brother was given a set of headphones so he could listen to the story in English. It was kind of a weird thing to find in a castle museum, but somehow cute.

The remainder of the museum had general stuff about the castle and local area. At the end was an exhibition of architects collected from people living in the town, including old games. I took the following picture because the sign amused me:

Schloss Neunbürg

All the things in that particular display case had to do with the railway. For those who don’t read German, the sign says “No smoking and no spitting on the floor.” Hahaha.

By the time we left the castle, it was raining pretty heavily, so our original plan of a possible work in the woods was out. Instead, we headed to Hirsau in the Calw region because I had read there was an Abbey museum there. Museum = indoors! Unfortunately, there was no English information in the museum so I ended up translating things for my brother! The first 2 floors were about the church that the museum is located in and the abbey/life of the monks, then there was a floor with information about Hirsau and the surrounding area, including an album of old photos. Once we’d finished with the museum, it had stopped raining and we were able to head over to the ruins of the abbey itself.

Outside the little chapel (the Lady Chapel), there was a tonne of rose petals on the ground. Since there was no rose bush to be seen, I can only assume somebody had married in the chapel that day and had rose petals strewn on them. What a gorgeous setting to get married! Shame about the awful weather.

I had seen on Facebook that The Seán Treacy Band, who have been mentioned on this blog before, were playing in a village called Schömberg, also not far from Calw, so we decided to finish our day by going to see them perform. The village was having its Glückswoche (happiness/luck week) and there was a mini festival going on. We ate spiralled potatoes on sticks, sausages (my brother) and pork steaks (me), had a few drinks and watched the first half of the band’s performance before heading back to Karlsruhe for the night.

Strasbourg and La Petite Pierre

Day 1 of my brother’s visit was spent in Karlsruhe, eating crepes and having a wander around. He had been before (about seven years ago!) so it was interesting to see what he remembered. Of course, some of the things he might have found familiar are now no longer visible due to ongoing construction for the tram tunnel!

After checking the weather for various places, we decided to make our first trip of the week Strasbourg simply because it wasn’t supposed to rain there! Strasbourg is about an hour’s drive from Karlsruhe (or between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours by train, depending on whether you take the express of regional transport). I didn’t actually take as many photos in Strasbourg as I normally would on day trips because I’ve been several times before (there’s only so many times you can photograph the same building!), but here are a few:

After walking around for a while and taking in the “main” sights (cathedral, canal), we decided to stop for lunch in the Petite-France area. It’s pretty touristy down there, but whatever. We were tourists, right? 😉 I decided to go traditionally Alsatian and have Tarte flambée (actually not 100% traditional, because while I did go with the baon and onion topping, I chose one that also included cheese… because cheese! No further explanation necessary).

Tarte flambée, or Flammkuchen in German
Tarte flambée, or Flammkuchen in German

Once we’d eaten, I wandered down the water’s edge and attempted to take a photo of a mother duck and her ducklings. I swear I’ve seen ducklings in Strasbourg every single time I’ve visited! No matter what the time of year, there are ducklings! (The one exception is the time I went for the Christmas market, but we were nowhere near the water then.)

Strasbourg

From Petite-France, we wandered down to the Barrage Vauban… the Vauban weir. Inside the weir there are sculptures and, when we were there, also an exhibition showing the various suburbs of Strasbourg as they used to be and as they are now they’ve been incorporated into Strasbourg (most were originally little villages). Vauban, who built the wier, was actually a military engineer and built numerous fortifications, all in a very specific style. On top of the weir, there is a panoramic terrace with a lovely view of the various bridges.

After walking around for a little longer, we decided to head back to the car. Instead of heading straight home, we used the sat nav to look for places of interest in the general vicinity and came up with La Petite Pierre, where there was supposedly a castle. It meant a bit of a detour, but still wasn’t too far from home, so we added it as an intermediate destination. Also, Jan told me the name of the village means “little rock”, which amused me because that means anyone whose name is Pierre is actually named rock! (Yes, the mame Peter actually means stone or rock as well, but that’s not the same as having the actual name Rock). By the time we arrived, the evening sky was the perfect colour for taking photos! Here’s the castle and the little church beside it:

In the grounds of the castle there was the following sculpture, carved entirely from a single tree branch. I thought it was cool!

There was some kind of exhibition in the castle, but none of us was really interested in seeing it, so instead we wandered over to a little garden/picnic area opposite. There, we found large stone coats of arms from the neighbouring villages. I’m pretty sure the hat on the first one once belonged to the Sorceror’s Apprentice 😉 Sorry, but I don’t actually remember which villages/regions the coats of arms were for. Any French people out there want to help?

On the way in to La Petite Pierre we had driven past a tearoom, so we decided to have a walk back down the hill and head there for a drink. On the way back through the village, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a tiny door with carvings of girls carrying pretzels on it. It looked to me like it should be in a fairytale!

La Petite Pierre

The tearoom turned out to be fascinating… crammed full of all sorts of odds and ends, from various different teapots (okay, not that bizarre) to shoes randomly hanging on the wall. Sorry my second photo is a bit blurry, but I’m sure you get the idea!

After a quick look at the menu, I decided a hot chocolate with cream was the way forward.. and once it arrived the cup and saucer just begged for me to take a photo! We also all decided to have a piece of cake – lemon meringue pie for my brother and I and something with bergamot for Jan (I tried his – the bergamot doesn’t taste quite as perfumy in cake as in Earl Grey tea but it’s still not my favourite thing in the world!). My meringue was slightly chewy, but not too bad.

Once we’d finished eating and drinking, it was time to return to the car for the drive back to Karlsruhe. Day trip one done! next up is Basel, which I’m counting as my July trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge. Stay tuned!

A meeting with some expats in Heidelberg

A while ago, Charlotte from Sherbet and Sparkles suggested that the English-speaking bloggers in Germany should arrange a meet up (that’s a long-winded way of saying expat bloggers purely so that I can avoid referring to myself as such ;-)). The meetup location was Heidelberg – which I was happy about because it’s incredibly easy for me to get to – and the chosen date was Saturday 26 April.

Before I left, I was both excited and nervous. What if I couldn’t find everyone? And what if nobody liked me when I did? Luckily, my fellow bloggers were all just as lovely in person as online and I managed not to make a fool of myself or accidently say anything weird or offensive… at least I don’t think I did. And if I did, then I apologise!
Despite the weather forecast’s claims that it would be cold and cloudy, it actually turned out to be a lovely day. My raincoat was quickly relegated to my handbag as we enjoyed a lovely walk up to the castle and then around its grounds.

Having seen all the castle had to offer (including the giant wine barrel, which claims to be the world’s largest… as does the one in Bad Dürkheim. I shall refrain from hazarding a guess as to which one’s lying, but will say that the one in Bad Dürkheim has never actually contained wine…), it was time to head into town for lunch. We ended up going to Café Knösel, mostly because we happened to be near it at the time and it had a decent choice of food (including a few vegetarian items). Also, those with access to TripAdvisor were able to find out that it had good reviews. Steven has since discovered that it’s actually the oldest café in Heidelberg, so it seems we accidently picked something traditional 😉 I had the Flammkuchen with spinach and goat’s cheese, which was delicious. I loooove goat’s cheese! No photo for you because I’d eaten it all before the thought even occurred to me…

After lunch, we headed down to the bridge – the Karl-Theodor-Brücke (also known as the Alte Brücke, Old Bridge) – which was just around the corner. Steven discovered these cute little metal mice that I had never noticed before in all my visits to Heidelberg. Thanks Steven!

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On the bridge, a group photo was taken and we all admired the view of the castle. We also spotted some ducklings down on the riverbank, but my zoom didn’t stretch far enough to get a photo of them. Never mind, here are some shots of the castle and bridge:

Sadly, Frau Dietz and her gorgeous baby son had to leave us after the bridge, but the rest of us continued on to the Studentnkarzer – student prison. This was another thing that I did not know was in Heidelberg! How do I miss these things? The prison is unique to the University of Heidelberg and was in use from 1823–1914. Students could be sent to prison for offences such as being drunk and disorderly, messing with the police or fighting. Many o the prisoners documented their “crime” on the walls… for example, one rhyme told of how a student being “concerned about the police getting their rest” snuck into the guard room at the poolice station and switched off the gas lamp. You could be sent to prison for anything from a few days to several weeks – the writing on the wall in one room told of how a student had been sentenced to four weeks! There was no mention of what he had done though. (All the prisoners were male by the way – the first females were admitted to Heidelberg University in 1900, but apparantly they managed to behave themselves for the next four years until the prison closed). The prison has been preserved in pretty much its original state, with all the old graffiti on the walls and the original furniture – although the straw mattresses that would probably have been on the beds are no more.

The ticket for the student jail also includes the University Museum and the Große Aula (Great Hall). There were no halls at my university that looked like this, I can tell you!

Heidelberg

With the sun now firmly out, our final stop of the day was for frozen yoghurt… or FroYo. I had never tried it before and I must say I’m grateful to everyone for introducing me to this delicious treat!

Frozen yoghurt

Yoghurt eaten, the group slowly strolled down Hauptstraße (the main street) to Bismarckplatz (Bismarck Square) where we caught a tram back to the main station then carried on back to our final destinations. I can’t speak for the others, but I certainly thought the day was a success, and I hope we can do it again some time.

The other bloggers I met up with were (in no particular order):
Charlotte from Sherbet and Sparkles
Frau Dietz from Eating Wiesbaden
Kathleen from Leher Werkstatt
Steven from Doin’ Time on the Donau
Jordan from Beer time with Wagner
Nina from Indie Rock Kid

Go check out their blogs and say hi to them… they’re a fantastic bunch.

Travel Theme: Ancient

Ailsa’s travel theme for this week is Ancient, and what could be more ancient than basically all of Rome? Here’s the Forum:

Foro Romano
Foro Romano

From Ancient Rome to Ancient Roman… here’s one of my absolute favourite Roman sites in the UK, Vindolanda.

Vindolanda

Just south of Hadrian’s Wall, Vindolanda Roman fort is best known for the discovery of the Vindolanda tablets – the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain. Excavations are still going on at Vindolanda, so if you go there at the right time of year you might get to see some real archaeologists at work!

Staying in the UK,  here are the ruins of Mitford Castle in Northumberland, which dates from the end of the 11th century. Jan actually took this photo and I love it. It could easily be a professional postcard!

Mitford Castle

You can’t actually go up to Mitford Castle any more (the above photo was taken from a car window) because it’s considered dangerous. The ruins aren’t exactly stable! Apparantly the farms have no problem letting their sheep roam around in there though…

To finish with, here’s Kells Priory,  one of the largest and most impressive medieval monuments in Ireland. It’s featured on the blog before, but I love it so I need to include it again for those who missed it previously!

Kells Priory 1

Got any ancient photos you want to share? The travel theme is still open until the end of tomorrow! Check out Ailsa’s blog post for more details, and to see the other entries… there are lots of way better photographers than me out there!