Skerries – a short getaway from Dublin

Last weekend, we drove up to Skerries, a seaside town north of Dublin city. In about an hour, we made it to the centre of the small town. Easily accessible by Dublin bus and the Irish rail, Skerries is part of the Dublin county and makes for a great city break.

Skerries is especially popular for its historic tower mills that date back several hundred years. The Skerries mill complex includes 2 tower mills or windmills and a water mill.

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The mills can be visited through a guided tour only and unfortunately the last tour was already underway when we got to the mills. And so, we just walked around the mill complex admiring the mills from a distance.

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The one above is the four sail windmill and is the older of the two. It’s also known as The Small Windmill while the one below is called The Great Windmill. The taller one below is said to be more efficient considering its five sails.

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It was good weather the day we were visiting – blue skies showing no trace of rain. Perfect weather to walk the little coast of Skerries.

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We were soon peckish and decided to head over to this little cafe Goat in The Boat for some snacks and coffee. Funny little folk tale of St. Patrick and his visit to Skerries can be found on one of the cafe’s walls.

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Skerries is filled with cute little cafes.

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Storm in a Teacup is very close to the beach, perfect place to take away some icecream and a cuppa to enjoy by the beautiful Irish sea.

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From the Skerries harbor, you can see a faint outline of the Mourne Mountains in the distance

We walked along the rocky shore picking shells and watching little hermit crabs scurrying thru tidepools.

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As the sun went down, it started to get nippy and we made our way back to the car park.

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Right behind the car park is one of the two Martello Towers in Skerries. You’ll find plenty of such towers along the Irish coastline. These small defensive forts were built during the French revolution. Although primarily functioning as a watch-house, these towers were also homes to the guards and their families.

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Alhough we spent only a few hours in Skerries and found Howth much more fascinating, it was nevertheless a lovely evening spent in good company.

Lake Geneva – a French perspective

Last year, incidentally around this time, we were touring across Germany and Switzerland. We wrapped up our 2-week long holiday in Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Europe.

When we booked our AirBNB accomodation, we didn’t realise that the place we’d booked was actually on the French side of Lake Geneva. And, that’s how we ended up in France for the first time!

We hopped on a train from Grindelwald, where we’d spent 3 incredibly wonderful days hiking the Swiss Alps. We got off the train at Lausanne, one of the biggest cities on Lake Geneva. After a rushed unfinished lunch at a lovely restaurant by the lake, we ran all the way to the port with our bags trailing hard and just about made it in time for our short boat ride to Thonon les Bains.

It was a scenic ride with gorgeous views of Lake Geneva and the little towns on its shore.

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It was almost sundown by the time we reached Thonon

Thonon les Bains is just across the lake, on the French side. It is one of the bigger towns on the lake and seems to be fairly popular with tourists looking to spend a relaxed holiday in Lake Geneva or Lac Léman, as known in French.

We stayed in a little French village called Anthy-sur-Léman, about 10 minutes away from Thonon. Anthy is also by the lake and is a quiet place to stay at if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the more popular towns on the lake. After a 10-day hop across South Germany and Switzerland, all we wanted to do was kick back and relax and this idyllic little village was perfect. The AirBNB we stayed at was just a few minutes away from the lake and had a lovely vegetable garden and chicken farm that my nephew was completely fascinated with.

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Wish we’d taken better pictures of the garden – the veggies and fruits looked great!

We spent the first day just unwinding over a few beers and taking a stroll around the garden. Later that evening, we headed to a lovely restaurant by the lake – Les Pieds Dans L’Eau. It was our first time eating French food and my first time eating fish! We were absolutely delighted with the food at this place.

The next day, we headed back to Thonon for some sight-seeing. Thonon-les-Bains has a stunning port and is a very popular fishing village on Lake Geneva. It also seems to be well-known for water sports and the large number of yachts docked at the harbor surely was proof of the enthusiasm the locals had for sailing.

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It was great weather that day and we took a walk along the promenade admiring the gorgeous blue waters of Lake Geneva and the Jura mountain range just across the lake in Switzerland.

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The port or Port de Rives as it’s properly known, is lined with a good bunch of restaurants and cafes. It also has a great play area overlooking the lake.

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He couldn’t get enough! He loved the play area.

The Thonon city centre sits high above Lake Geneva and we made our way up there on the Funiculaire de Thonon-les-Bains. Dating back to late 19th century, this little funicular is a fun ride offering splendid lake views as you ascend to the Les Belvederes, a large garden area that also acts as a viewing platform for the lake.

The views from up here are incredibly beautiful. And, on a sunny day with blue skies, you’re bound to fall in love with the shimmering blue lake.

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Yeah, he was spellbound as well! Just for a few minutes though…
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He chased me all over the park! Got my much-needed exercise.

It’s always such a fun-filled day with this little guy! We spent the next hour or so lazing on the grass and taking in the views of the spectacular lake.

Although we didn’t do a whole lot in Lake Geneva, we had a wonderful coupla days in the scenic little French villages by the lake. It was the perfect laid-back finish to an amazing holiday!

(P.S.: Watch out for more posts from the holiday!)

Salzburg in a day

Salzburg is like that often overlooked sibling of an illustrious personality — in its case, the city of Vienna. However, just as the cliché goes, while it is similar to Vienna in some respects, Salzburg has its own unique mix of exquisite art, music, culture and incredible scenery. The city is perhaps most well known for being the birthplace of Mozart and for being the location of the heartwarming movie The Sound of Music, but digging a bit deeper reveals so much more of this enchanting city, nestled in the Alps.

Salzburg was our first and last stop on our spring holiday this year. We used Salzburg as our home base to explore the alpine villages of Germany and Austria. It was centrally located giving us easy accessibility and assured us of lively bars and restaurants that we could unwind at after a long day of sight-seeing.

While we did explore a little bit of Salzburg every evening when we returned, we fully explored the city only on our last day there.

There’s a lot to do in Salzburg – stunning cathedrals, excellent museums, great beerhalls, cool fountains, beautiful parks and the list goes on. Here are some spots we think are definitely worth a visit.

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Even if you are in Salzburg for just the day or a few hours, make time for this. The Hohensalzburg’s not only got some great exhibits on the inside but spectacular views of the city and the surrounding alps on the outside.

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The alpine view despite an incredibly cloudy day
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See the light snow on the rooftops?

It was mid April and the last snowfall was around early February but this year there was unexpected snow across Germany and Austria for a couple of days in April that took everyone by surprise. It definitely made our plan to see Salzburg that day mighty hard with slushy snow hitting us in bursts thru the day.

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A blast of sunshine, just before the snow storm

The Hohensalzburg Fortress is perched on a little hill, just above the old town area.

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A view of the Hohensalzburg castle towering high above

The fortress is easily accessible from the city centre via the FestungsBahn funicular (just around the corner from the KapitelPlatz). Once you step outside this little funicular, check out the panoramic terrace for outstanding views of the city and the alps.

There’s a whole bunch of things to do inside this 11th century fortress that includes several wings and courtyards. Some sections are converted into museums filled with interesting exhibits. The Fortress Museum in the Hoher Stock wing is quite fascinating with its large collection of weapons and ceramics. It gives a great background on the history of the fortress and everyday life in the castle.

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It also features some painful-looking weapons of torture
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In there, you’ll also find this  unique display of armor and weapons held up by strings

The Rainer-Regiment Museum has a somewhat similar theme of exhibits including weapons, uniforms and a historical recount of the key role played by the Rainer Regiment in the First World War. They also have a few nicely done sets and it’s worth a quick stop.

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The Marionette Museum is another little section in the fortress that has an intriguing set of puppets on exhibit from its very popular Marionette Theatre. The theatre itself is located in the heart of the city and has a variety of shows every day. We were unable to make any of these shows during our visit but it’s something we have on our list for a future visit. It seems like a fun show for children and adults alike and if you have the time, you should check it out.

As you walk thru the castle bastions, you’ll stumble into some of these (harmless) guys.

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The Royal Apartments is another delightful section in the fortress. It features a few different rooms of which the Golden Chamber is most remarkable. Wall to ceiling, this room is exquisitely decorated in lush colors and gothic style. The main showpiece in the chamber is the large Majolica oven that is lavishly decorated with colorful, intricate designs. The Golden Hall, just beside the Golden Chamber, is another grandly decorated room with similar gothic designs. For over 40 years, the hall has hosted some of Salzburg’s best Mozart concerts and it definitely seemed like the best place in the city to enjoy an evening of delightful music coupled with some striking views.

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The ornate Golden Chamber

Although it’ll take you a few good hours, the Hohensalzburg Fortress is a sight that shouldn’t be missed. On your way down to the city, you could do a quick stop at the Stiegl Brewery to get a refreshing pint of their lager or some local bites. The city views from their biergarten are quite lovely as well.

Another popular place in Salzburg for great city views is the Winkler Terrace, accessible via the Mönchsberg Lift. We couldn’t fit this into our day but it seems like a place that’s definitely worth the visit from the few pictures we’ve seen – stunning panoramas!

Salzburger Dom

Built in early 17th century, the Salzburg Cathedral is incredibly beautiful. On the outside, it seems somewhat ordinary, but when you step inside, you’re struck by its true splendor.

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The central dome of the cathedral is awe-inspiring
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The richly decorated ceiling of the central dome
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The ceilings throughout the cathedral are done up in admirable baroque art

Altstadt or Old Town area

Salzburg’s old town area is a great place to start your exploration of Salzburg. Most of the popular sights including the fortress and cathedral are centered in the old town or historical district. Just opposite the cathedral is the Residenzplatz with its splendid horse-fish fountain or Residenzbrunnen.

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Sculpted by an Italian guy, this baroque fountain is an interesting piece of art

The Residenz Square also includes a whole bunch of museums including the Dom Quartier and Salzburg Museum which we sadly couldn’t make time for in the one day we had in Salzburg. They looked pretty fascinating from their websites and if you are in Salzburg for more than a day, you should give it a go. Also, note that these museums are interconnected and seem to be covered in one pass.

Just next to the Residenzplatz is the Mozartplatz. Of course, the square is adorned by a statue of Salzburg’s most popular guy.

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If you fancy a horse carriage ride thru the old town area, you’ll find these guys hanging around the Mozart Square.

For more of Mozart, head over to Mozart’s Wohnhaus (residence) and Mozart’s Geburtshaus (place of birth). Both these houses have been converted into museums exhibiting paintings, musical instruments, documents and a great number of other collectibles that narrate the life story of the musical genius.

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Mozart’s birth place in Getreidegasse

Apart from being well-known for Mozart’s place of birth, the Getreidegasse is also popular for shopping in Salzburg. Even if you ain’t shopping, the street is a delight to walk thru. Every store has a uniquely designed sign above its door. Even McDonald’s is fancy in this street!

One thing you should shop for, in the whereabouts of this area, is the Mozart Kugeln. Launched for the first time in late 19th century, these little chocolate bonbons made of pistacchio, marzipan and nougat, are an Austrian specialty.

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Music fills the streets of Salzburg. The old town area is bustling with musicians playing delightful classical numbers. Do take time to stop for a gelato, sit in one of the beautiful old town squares and listen to these guys.

If you’d rather sit indoors and listen to some great jazz music, head over to Jazzit. They have some great musicians entertaining you every day of the week. The place is very popular so get there early and grab a seat by the bar that faces the stage and you’ll be all set for a wonderful evening of incredibly wonderful jazz. This was one of our best nights on our week-long road trip!

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Mirabell Palace and Gardens

Schloss Mirabell and Mirabellgarten is less than a kilometre away from the  old town and it rose to fame when one of the popular scenes from the ‘Sound of Music’ was filmed here, right on these steps, that is the entrance to the garden.

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It is a lovely garden to walk thru especially around spring time with gorgeous tulips and other spring flowers embellishing the vast garden.

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This was our favorite section in the Mirabell Gardens

The Dwarf Park is a lot of fun! There are some very cool looking dwarves throughout this little park. Here’s a couple of our favorites.

Take a stroll by the Salzach

Do take some time to walk the banks of the Salzach river that runs thru the city of Salzburg. It is not too far from the old town area and you can get some wonderful views of this charming little city.

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Visit one of the many outstanding breweries

Finally, unwind in a cozy little brewpub and indulge in some of Austria’s culinary delights and excellent brews. You are spoilt for choice with their remarkable selection of breweries. Here are some that we tried and liked.

Looking back on our last day in Salzburg, we actually managed to see quite a bit in one day. If you have more time, there’s a lot more you can do in and around the city.

We hope to return to Salzburg someday, to explore more of the unspoiled beauty and culture that fills every little corner of this city.

Hallstatt – where beauty meets adventure

On a cloudy Easter Sunday morning, we began our short drive to Hallstatt. As we drove out of Salzburg, we were met with pouring rain. The snow-speckled alpine mountains surrounding Salzburg were completely hidden from view and dark clouds hung low. Several minutes into our drive, we move off the expressway and pass thru pretty little villages nestled at the foot of lush green hills. We drive past these villages and on to windy roads with the hills on one side and the gushing stream on the other. The rain had slowed down to a drizzle, the clouds were receding and finally, some spring sunshine filters thru the sky as we arrive in Hallstatt.

Our first stop in Hallstatt was the Dachstein Ice Caves and 5 Fingers Lookout. Unfortunately, this was still closed due to the cold weather (Austria was still getting its last snowfall in April!) We were a bit disappointed as the views from the 5 Fingers looked stunning and the ice caves looked simply fascinating from the pictures we’d seen. But, we knew we were not going to be able to explore some of the sights as we were still traveling during the winter period and most of the attractions would reopen only around the end of April. We didn’t despair though as we had quite an exciting adventure waiting for us!

We pulled into the parking area at the Salzwelten Hallstatt and made our way to the funicular that would take us up to the Salzberg (Salt Mountain). It’s a short scenic ride offering beautiful views of the Hallstatt lake and the Alps.

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Once you are off the funicular, you have a few things to do on the Salzberg – head up to the Skywalk or World Heritage View – it’s a viewing platform 350 metres above the Hallstatt village. Take the lookout bridge towards the Rudolf Tower to get to the Skywalk. The views from here are just jaw-dropping. You can see the Hallstatt village right below you and the nearby Obertraun village as well. The Hallstattersee looks quite magnificient from this height. Although we visited on a cloudy day and the alps were mostly hidden from view, the moody clouds added a certain charm to the views.

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And the main attraction on this Salt Mountain is the Salt Mine of course. If you’re feeling peckish before you head on over to the Salt Mine, you can grab a bite at the restaurant in the Rudolf Tower. They have a lovely patio which is right above the Skywalk deck so you can grab a pint and a bite while enjoying the beautiful views. Make sure you head on over to the salt mine in time for your tour. The walk to the Salt Mine is short but beautiful.

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Look back and you can see the Rudolf Tower in the distance..

The Salt Mine tour was the highlight of our Hallstatt trip. This is hands down one of our best tours and most fascinating experiences ever. Not only was it well-organized with informative and friendly guides but it was filled with a lot of high-tech entertainment and adventure! Before we set off on our tour through the oldest salt mine in the world, we had to don a miner’s suit which was just the beginning of making this a very real experience. We then walked thru long tunnels that had been dug up by miners a few thousands of years ago to get to the salt mine.

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And, then, it was time to take a mindblowing ride down a very long, ancient wooden miner’s slide to go further down into the mine. As you can tell from the picture, I was a bit nervous as is usually the case with rides but Steve just loves them! You could take the flight of stairs next to the slide if you don’t feel up to it. But, you really should do the slide – it’s a lot of fun! It’s quite safe for the young and old (just don’t put your arms out and follow the directions given).

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They also capture your embarassing but fun moment to take back as a prized souvenir

Once you’re further down in the mine, you’ll find lots of rock salt – on the ceiling, on the walls, everywhere… you can just pinch some off for a taste – it’s delicious!

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The tour guides are great – they give you excellent background on the salt mine and its significance. Here are some tidbits that we remember – Apparently, 250 million years ago, the entire salt mine area was covered by the ocean. The village of Hallstatt came into existence when the salt mine was discovered during the pre-historic times. And today, the Hallstatt salt mine produces 750,000 tonnes of salt per year. It is one of the first known salt mines in the world that helped uncover valuable information on the pre-historic era.

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In the salt mine, you’ll go thru several diferent sections – some like the one above where you’ll find salt blocks and some others where they display valuable finds from the pre-historic times. There’s also a little cinema room – appearing very rustic but built with advanced technology. The tour also includes a few short, interesting videos that take you deeper into the history of the salt mine and the remarkable discoveries that were made including the oldest wooden staircase in Europe and the Man in Salt (the body of a former miner was discovered in an astonishingly well-preserved condition due to all the salt he was buried under!)

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No, this isn’t him – this is just Sepp, a miner who tells the story of the Man in Salt

At the last level in the mine, you are 400 metres underground and there is a mysterious little lake that reflects an amazing light show – spectacular effects and very nicely done! The light show depicts pre-historic times and a day in the life of the miners.

And, finally, it’s time for the last ride through the mine… We hop on a miner’s railway and take another exhilirating ride thru the narrow tunnels of the mine.

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The Hallstatt Salt Mine is a sensational experience – filled with non-stop adventure from start to finish. We highy recommend a visit to the Salzberg / Salt Mountain – it takes about 3 hours to do the salt mine tour and the skywalk. If there’s only one thing you have time for in Hallstatt, do this. It’s an unforgettable, thrilling adventure! If you have more time to spare and love a hike, Salzberg offers a couple of lovely hiking options as well.

We had just a couple more hours to spare in Hallstatt and decided to ride the funicular back down and check out the little village.

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We took a stroll thru the village market place. (See how deserted it is? Definitely one of the greatest advantages of traveling off-season is to be able to explore a place without bumping shoulder to shoulder. It is just the kind of holiday we like.)

The Hallstatt village center is filled with colorful little buildings and the Evangelical Church dominates most of this little center.

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It has an impressive spire
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This other church you see perched on the hill is Hallstatt’s catholic church – St. Michael’s Chapel

This 12th century church is most popular for its Charnel House (or Bone House). The Ossuary boasts a collection of over 600 skulls, all adorned with artistic designs. Unfortunately, we got there only to find that we’d arrived a few minutes too late. The place had just been closed!

We took a walk around the lovely little cemetery at the back of the church. Much like the rest of Austria, the graves are beautifully decorated with personal effects adorning the graves. The view from the top of the church is lovely.

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We then walked up to the classic village viewpoint at the Gosaumühlstraße. This is where you can get the famous postcard view of Hallstatt.

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Although it was about 7 PM, there was still plenty of daylight and we headed down to the lake for a stroll. The views of the Hallstätter See are just delightful. We grabbed a coupla beers, plonked down on one of the benches by the lake, and sat admiring the alpine wonder that surrounds this little Austrian village.

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Of course you could do a boat tour as well and get up close to these gorgeous mountains
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It was nearing sundown and we were just content to sit there and watch the swans swim by..

There’s unbelievable beauty everywhere in this little village!

Although it can get quite crowded, just take a walk thru the village and its surounding area and you can find a cosy quiet little spot to admire the beauty that this small place packs in.

We spent a short day in Hallstatt. If you do choose to stay overnight, you could stay at the nearby, less touristy Gosau or Obertraun. They are just 10 minutes away from Hallstatt. We spent a short while in Obertraun – it’s a tiny village on the other side of this bridge.

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With it being Easter sunday, the locals were nowhere to be seen and the tourists were thronging little Hallstatt. We seemed to be the only souls in this sleepy village and it was lovely to walk through the quiet little lanes and sit by the lake.

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The beauty of Austria is in its little alpine villages – each one as breathtaking as the next. We had visited St. Gilgen and Mondsee the previous day and continued to be amazed by this incredibly beautiful country. The Salzkammergut region where all these little villages are has some of Austria’s prettiest lakes and most charming villages, all surrounded by the majestic Alps.

We plan on going back to Austria again, maybe in winter – we’d love to try some skiing and snowboarding!

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While we dream of that day and hope it comes sooner than later, here’s the ‘Salt Man’ wishing you Glück Auf or Good Luck for your Hallstatt trip!

Cologne – the unsung beer capital of Germany

Although most would identify Munich as Germany’s beer capital what with the Oktoberfest craze… for us, it would be Cologne.

Cologne is where we first explored the craft beer variety Germany has to offer. It is where we saw locals relish craft beer as much as they do the revered Kölsch.

We started our beer journey in Cologne with the Kölsch – it seemed like the right thing to do. And, we were not disappointed. If you’ve read some of the posts on this blog, you will know that we are not huge fans of the Pils. That said, we don’t mind drinking them on tap every once in a while. It is full of fresh flavors and the Pils generally have a nice hoppiness to it, admittedly not the pale ale hoppiness that we like but good enough to drink occasionally.

We had our first Kölsch at the Gaffel am Dom. The Kölsch to us was really just a German pils, just not as hoppy. However, the Kölsch by classification is an ale as it’s top fermented unlike a Pils. Notice how it is served in a small glass. Now, that’s typical for a Kölsch. Another typical and somewhat amusing custom is the server filling your glass the second it is empty without checking if you’d like more. This makes you completely lose track of how much you’ve drunk but at the same time, it’s pretty cool that you’ll never need to wait for a beer! After a quite a few Kölschs, we put our beer coasters on top of our glass which seemed to be the norm when you’d had enough.

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We were pleased to find that Gaffel brewed another style of beer – it was somewhat similar to the Kölsch yet different because of the hops and fruity flavors. Like the Kölsch, this beer didn’t look or taste like a typical lager or ale.. whatever it was, we liked it! The Sonnen Hopfen as the name itself indicates is full of summer flavors, bursting with citrusy freshness and juicy hops. Definitely, a must-try if you visit the Gaffel am Dom. It is the closest to a craft beer style in a traditional Brauhaus in Cologne.

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We had a delightful evening at the Gaffel am Dom – loved the food and the ambience. This is a place worth visiting for that authentic Kölner experience.

The night was still young and we headed over to the Metronom, a jazz bar. It’s a tiny place but a bar that plays some wonderful jazz music and serves an authentic Guinness on tap. It had been ages since we’d had a genuine pint of Guinness and were so happy to find one, of all the places in Germany.

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Metronom is a small place filled with locals and tourists. It gets crammed easily as it’s a small bar but just get there early and you can get a spot close to the bar. When we had visited, they had run into some trouble with the live music shows creating too much noise for the residents in the area and they had stopped the shows. But, we still listened to some great jazz music. They have the most amazing collection of vinyl records!

The next day we visited the Cologne Biermuseum. Although the place isn’t exactly a museum but more a bar with lots of great, old bier steins from all over Deutschland, Austria and other parts of the world. The place has a very cozy feeling to it and we kinda had the whole place to ourselves when we stopped by for some midday refreshments. Now, what’s notable about this place is that they have a huge variety of beers on tap, beers from all around the world and a bigger variety of bottled beers, mostly the traditional variety. The majority of the tap beers are Bocks and these are some pretty amazing bocks. We’ve had some of our best bocks in all of Germany at this little bar.

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We particularly enjoyed the Urbock, a brilliantly crafted bock, that leaves you wanting more.

If you are a beer fanatic and especially one that loves Bocks, this place should definitely be part of your Cologne beer adventures.

Later that evening, we made our way to the Braustelle microbrewery in Ehrenfeld. These guys have a great set of beers on tap. Of course, they have their own Kölsch – the Helios. It’s one of the best Kölschs we had in all of Cologne. Braustelle has a great set of craft beers to suit all sorts of palettes. We weren’t too fond of their fruity Pink Panther ale but loved some of their stouts. They are always brewing new stuff and you’ll find their menu changing ever so often. It’s a great place where the craft beer loving locals get together. A must-visit if you are a beer enthusiast.

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The Helios

The next day we did a short trip to Bonn. It’s a university town that’s possibly most famous for being the birthplace of Beethoven and home to the United Nations German HQ. Incidentally, it’s where Steve worked while he lived in Bonn several years ago. More about Bonn in a separate post. On to the beers in Bonn – like Cologne they have their own brand of beer called the Bönnsch of course. Interesting point to note: Kölsch and Bönnsch are also what the local dialects are referred to for the respective cities.

While the Kölsch is served in a small glass, the Bönnsch is served in a very unique looking pint glass.

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The lighter (helles in German) beer is their classic, all-time brew – the Bönnsch Natürlich. It’s similar to the Kölsch yet couldn’t be more different. The darker brew you see is their Winter Bock – we quite liked this one! This, of course, is available only during the winter months. The Bönnsch beers are a creation of the Brauhaus Bönnsch which is a fantastic place to grab some delicious local bites and beers.

Later that afternoon, we headed back to Cologne and were quite excited about our evening plans. Not only were we meeting an old friend/roommate of Steve’s after nearly a decade, but were also planning on visiting Cologne’s kick-ass craft beer bar.

We started off the evening at the Päffgen Brauhaus. It’s a traditional beer hall atmosphere and is a fairly large place. They also have a nice winter beer garden that is covered and not too cold. After several rounds of Kölschs and some very tasty local food, we decided to get to the spot we’d been saving for the last.

Craft Beer Corner Coeln is one of the best craft beer bars in Germany. It is mostly filled with local folk who love their craft beers. They have 15 taps on rotation – beers include German and international craft. And they have a whole bunch more by the bottle. It is important to note that when we had visited Cologne in Dec 2016, we were living in Ulm, a small town in South Germany. The craft beer culture at that time was pretty much non-existent and we were always on the hunt for craft beers. [The scene today though is hugely different. More on this in a separate post!] So, essentially, you can imagine the palpable excitement in the air when we walked into this bar to find this mind-blowing collection of beers.

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Today was a Good Day IPA from Pizza Port was just one of the many craft beer gems we discovered that night

It turned out to be a long night of fun conversations over some hoppilicious beers. Also, we got our Pils loving German friend to try out a whole bunch of hoppy ales. Although he didn’t really develop a liking for the ales, he did enjoy the stouts quite a bit.

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They have a cool wall displaying the different beer styles and sub-styles. What you’re seeing in this pic is barely half of that wall!

If you are a serious beer drinker and find yourself in and around Cologne, you should definitely visit the Craft Beer Corner. It is one of the very few places in Germany where you get such a varied and huge collection of craft beers. We promise you, you will feel like you’ve finally come home at Craft Beer Corner Coeln. And, if you’re an IPA lover, you will be in hop heaven with their horde of great IPAs!

And, that’s how we began our Christmas beercation. Next stop Belgium. Stay tuned for our beer adventures in the holy land of beers.

Regensburg – a medieval marvel

Sometimes the most unplanned trips turn out to be the best trips. 

We’d had Regensburg on our bucket list of German cities to visit but hadn’t gotten around to it. As fate would have it, we had to plan a trip to the city for a work-related visit. So we set off on a lovely sunny evening with blue skies. It’s a short drive to Regensburg from Ulm and we made it there while the sun was still shining bright.

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First order of business was food. There’s a TON of options for delicious food in Regensburg. Our restaurant selections are generally driven by the beer variety. And, we were so pleased to discover that Regensburg has a ton of spots for good beer as well, including some very cool craft beer bars.

While you are in Regensburg, you should definitely visit the Wurstkuchl, the oldest sausage kitchen in the world.

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The smell of grilled sausages wafting through the air will have you drooling instantly
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Add a pint of the delicious Jacob’s Weissbier and you’ll be transported to heaven

If you prefer a quick bite, they have a takeaway corner outside. There’s usually a long line but don’t be deterred as it moves quickly and we promise you the sausages are worth the wait! Wurstkuchl was established in the 12th century as a small canteen of sorts primarily for dockers and masons working on the city’s renowned Stone Bridge.

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This is just a view of half of the Stone bridge, the other half is currently under rennovation

This old Stone Bridge over the Danube river was built in the 12th century and is one of the oldest bridges in Germany. Although the Steinerne Brücke goes thru regular renovation and restoration, much of the old stones are still holding up the bridge. The bridge is always packed with locals just trying to get to the other side of the city and tourists flocking to admire the old bridge and to get the best views of the city.

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A view of the old town area from the Stone Bridge
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Colorful buildings at the Stadtamhof, on the other side of the Stone Bridge

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The river banks are usually crowded with people picnicking with friends and family. Some get their hookahs and beers and enjoy the views of the beautiful Danube flowing thru the city. It was such a pleasant sight to watch children running around, people basking in the sunshine and enjoying a little siesta.

Regensburg is situated at the confluence of three rivers – Danube, Regen (possibly what the city was named after, joins the Danube from the north) and Naab (joins the Danube from the northwest). It’s amazing to see this confluence and the Danube splitting into little streams through the city and then merging back to flow as one mighty river. The best way to experience the beauty of Regensburg is to take a boat ride.

You have a whole range of options to tour the gorgeous waters of the Danube. We took the Strudelrundfahrt, a one-hour boat ride along the Danube where you can enjoy the sights of the old town and the pristine scenery of Regensburg.

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The towering spires of the Regensburg Cathedral in the distance
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A little castle in the old town area
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The Danube keeps splitting like this and rejoining
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You also have the option to hop on one of these cruise boats that take you on a longer tour over the Danube lasting a few days

The Danube cruises are world-renowned and is a very popular activity with tourists looking to explore Germany and its neighboring countries. It definitely seems like a fun, relaxing mode of travel if you’re not someone who gets sick on the water. Most rooms have a lovely little sit-out and the rooms and the inside of the boat itself seem quite cozy and comfortable. One of our family members did the Danube cruise which started from Passau (which by the way is a lot like Regensburg with a confluence of three rivers as well) and traveled through Austria and Eastern Europe.

The old town area of Regensburg is filled with a whole bunch of historical sights, and pretty little cafes and biergartens tucked into cobblestoned alleys. There are a number of churches as well. Of course, the most visited one is the Regensburger Dom.

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The Regensburger Dom or St. Peter’s Cathedral is possibly one of the most visited sights in the city. Built in the 13th century, its imposing twin towers and gothic style is simply remarkable.

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The front view is similar to that of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)
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And this side view where the two towers merge to look like one makes the cathedral look a lot like the Ulm cathedral, the tallest church in the world

With the Danube flowing through the city and its medieval cathedral, Regensburg reminded us of Ulm in so many ways. It is just a bigger Bavarian Ulm with a lot more restaurants, cool bars, and a stronger craft beer presence.

The craft beer culture in Regensburg is simply impressive! They have an annual craft beer festival that happens sometime around May. We were just lucky that the dates of the beer fest coincided with the dates of our visit. It was just an amazing stroke of beerluck!  If you are a beer enthusiast visiting Regensburg around spring/early summer, plan your visit around the craft beer fest dates – you won’t be disappointed! Click here to read about our adventures in the craft beer festival and our recommendations for great beer haunts in Regensburg.

There’s a ton of things to do in Regensburg but we were there for a short couple of days and spent a lot of our time at the craft beer festival. When we were not at the beer fest, we were walking through the little lanes of the Altstdadt or old town area. It’s such a gorgeous little city with plenty of beautiful old buildings. You will find remnants of its rich history all around the old town.

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Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) – popular for its torture chamber
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Cosy little lanes with colorful old buildings adorn the Altstadt
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The Goliathhaus has stood strong since the 13 century!
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What you see here is remains of the Roman fortress, Portra Praetoria / Castra Regina dating back to 179 AD !

One of the other impressive churches in the old town area is the Alte Kapelle or Old Chapel. The exterior of this church is quite simple and unimpressive compared to its rich, stunning interiors.

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This ancient little town with its 2000 year old history has much to offer. It wasn’t so surprising when we found out that it was the first capital of Bavaria.

Regensburg is one of Bavaria’s most beautiful cities and is well worth a visit if you are traveling through south Germany. We’re absolutely thrilled to have visited this city and will fondly cherish our memories of this place and the amazing people we met here.

Craft Beer Culture in Regensburg

A little Bavarian city that impressed us not just because of its 2000-year old history but more so because of its amazing craft beer culture.

Despite being an old German city filled with typical, traditional German breweries serving the popular German beer styles like the pils and weizens, there are a few good craft beer bars and an annual craft beer festival that gave us the wonderful feeling that this city is embracing the craft beer revolution with wide open arms unlike a lot of the other bigger Bavarian cities.

It was absolutely delightful to see the locals, especially the elder locals enjoying their craft beer! Now, that is a sight that brings us much joy because it shows that this fatherland of beers is slowly letting go of the rigidity with their traditional beer choices and are open to trying out the new, bolder, better styles that craft brewing offers.

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If you are planning to visit Regensburg, we highly recommend you visit around the same time as their annual craft beer festival that usually takes place in May. The Craft Bier Festival Regensburg runs for 3 days and not only has a whole bunch of German and international craft breweries offering their best brews on tap, but it also includes some very cool live music shows.

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The craft beer festival is a fun, family-friendly event! And, if you like your beer, you will not be disappointed with the choices you will have. We found that the Regensburg craft beer festival was much better organized, more fun and included a better variety and quality of German craft brews compared to the Munich craft beer festival. And, even though it attracts some large crowds, it’s out in the open with plenty of space for you to  move around or find a cozy corner to enjoy your brews. If you feel like socialising, you might just find like-minded beer enthusiasts. And, if you’re as lucky as us, you may just make some wonderful beer friends!

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Here are some of the German breweries to look out for if you’re at the beer fest or if you can get your hands on German craft beer.

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The Aventinus Eisbock tops our list of most loved German beers. Schneider Weisse specialises in wheat beers and bocks, the only German traditional beer styles we really enjoy.
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The Pirate Brew Berlin brews some mean porters
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The RavenKraft brewery is worth a try. Their Black IPA although not a typical black IPA but more a Tripel, is still a great brew.
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The Rhaner brewery offers a great variety of styles and are worth checking out as well.

Now, don’t be dismayed if you’re unable to visit Regensburg during the craft beer festival days as there’s an excellent craft beer bar, right in the heart of the city.

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The Birretta Bier Bar is your go-to place for good beer! They have a huge collection of German and international craft beers, 20 or so on tap and plenty more by bottle. It’s a cozy little place with a great ambience. What seals this sweet deal is their fun live music.

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The guys on stage are some seriously talented musicians. The New Oak Regensburg is a local band of two Americans and one German. They play some mind-blowing folk music and are a friendly bunch of guys. They play every Thursday at the Birretta.

If you need other beer options or want to check out the traditional German beer places or simply try great local food, here are a few other suggestions:

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Jacob’s Weissbier at the Wurstkuchl is simply delicious! And the sausages at this historical sausage kitchen is a must-try!
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The Regensburger Weissbrauhaus offers some lip-smacking local food. The Weizens are okay, not as full-bodied and flavorful as we prefer.

There’s a whole bunch of good beer to drink in Regensburg and we were impressed with the spirit the city shows in breaking away from its longstanding beer traditions.

Even though Regensburg is one of Germany’s oldest cities that puts in a great deal of effort in preserving its history and culture, it is also a remarkably ‘young’ city embracing the craft beer revolution with unbridled enthusiasm! It is cities like these that will help Germany plough ahead with stronger strides in the craft beer movement.

Memmingen – where time stands still

Sometimes, the smallest of things pack in the largest of wonders.

Memmingen is a quaint little Bavarian town, popularly known as the gateway to the Allgäu (a region across Germany and Austria that stretches across the Alps). Most tourists use Memmingen as a base when traveling to the Bavarian Alps or the Neuschwanstein (sleeping beauty) castle as this little town has an airport and it’s quicker to access the Alps from here rather than from Munich or Stuttgart.

Oh, but, this dreamy little town is more than just a gateway to the Alpine region. It is a charming, vibrant little town with colorful townhouses and cobblestoned alleys which was thankfully left unscathed by the World War II destruction that left most of Germany in shambles.

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One of the prettiest market squares we’ve seen

We visited Memmigen on a sudden whim; decided to make the slight detour on our way back home from Füssen. So, with no list of things to do and places to see, we decided to just walk around this medieval town for a few hours and see what little surprises were in store. And, we were not disappointed! At every corner, we ran into one wondrous thing or the other – a historic building, a brightly painted house, a pretty stream, an interesting sculpture, a beautiful little chapel… we were simply delighted at every turn.

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We started at the Marktplatz, the city centre, which is generally the best place to start at in any town. But this market place was unlike any others we’d seen. Colorful buildings adorn this little square and most of this little town. You’ll see these brightly painted buildings all around town.

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We just fell in love with them

This intricately painted building you see in the pictures below is Memmingen’s Steuerhaus (tax house). It takes up most of the market square.

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It was a bright sunny day and we basked in the warm spring sunshine

Right next to the Steuerhaus is the Rathaus (town hall).

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We quite liked the dome design of the Rathaus, especially the centre dome with its shuttered windows

We continued walking towards the other end of the square.. just next to the Steuerhaus is the St. Johann church.

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A closer look at the artwork on this church

And just around the corner from here, is the Blaue Saul, the blue (corner) column.

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We walked on straight ahead from the blue column, toward the Sankt Martinskirche (St. Martin’s church).

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The church was unfortunately closed.. so we walked back down the street, toward the little stream that we’d seen opposite the blue column. The Stadtbach (town brook) runs through most of this little town making the little place all the more magical.

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We just followed the stream admiring the hurriedly swimming fish
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Interesting building art at Weber am Bach, a historic 700-year old hotel
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An interesting equestrian statue of Welf VI

Welf VI was a 12th century Lord of Memmingen and Duke of Bavaria. The sculpture is quite an interesting portrayal of the Bavarian lord – you can see him riding with a globe under his horse’s hoof and his naked wife on the palm of his hand.

We continued walking around the Altstadt (old town) area. We came across an interesting historic gate. Apparently, there are ten such gates/towers and about 2 kilometers of wall around the Altstadt from several centuries ago that is still preserved.

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We then arrived at the Fischerbrunnen at the Schrannenplatz.

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The Fisher Fountain
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Bet there’s an interesting story behind the fisherman’s expression…

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The beautiful red building in the background is the Goldener Lowe (Golden Lion),
the city’s oldest wine tavern

The Schrannenplatz was brimming with locals – kids frolicking in one of the other fountains in the square, people sitting around the little cafes sipping on their evening coffees, and some others cooling off the hot day with some ice-cream.

We took a right in one of these little lanes, again just following the stream..

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It was nearly 8 PM and it was still so bright outside; just love spring!
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The little canals and the bikes around took us briefly back to Amsterdam

It is such a picturesque, fascinating little town. We walked on at a lazy pace, reveling in the beauty that surrounded us.

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Oh what we would give, to live in one of these cozy houses by the stream

Memmingen reminded us so much of Ulm (where we currently live). Little streams flow through Ulm as well and the city centres are quite similar, although more half-timbered and less colorful buildings in Ulm and definitely lesser crowds in Memmingen, even for a Saturday evening.

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The Frauenkirche, Church of our Lady

Dusk was slowly settling in and flocks of birds were headed home high above the Frauenkirche. In front of the church was a cozy little park.

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Frauenkirchplatz

After a short break in the park, we slowly traced our steps back to the town center, taking a different route.

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This fun gang of girls excitedly posed for us
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We ran into another gang of girls on our way
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Not so fun though; these girls appeared to be engrossed in some serious conversation

Now, with all that walking, we had worked up a nice appetite and were ready to check out the local food and brews. We just walked around the block that had a whole bunch of restaurants and ended up at the Moritz Memmingen. It was a lovely restaurant – good food and good local beer.

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When in Memmingen, drink a Memminger

We’d had the Memminger Weizen before, when we had first arrived in Ulm. It’s a delicious wheat beer!

We would have loved to spend more time in this charming little town but it was time to hit the road. We were so glad we had decided to make this impromptu stopover for a short few hours in Memmingen. We were thrilled to discover this little treasure not too far from home.

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Night falls over the Kreuzherrenkloster
as we say goodbye to beautiful Memmingen

The little towns of Germany continue to delight us leaving us with beautiful memories that will be lovingly cherished for a long time.