Luzern, Switzerland

July has been a busy month around here. We started off the month with O turning 3. We traveled to Drayton Manor in England to see Thomas Land for O’s big day. It was a little overwhelming for O but we made the best of it.

A few weeks later we turned around and headed to Switzerland to visit our friends from Maryland. They had come to Europe for a family wedding and were making a stop in Luzern (or Lucerne), Switzerland.

Luzern is a 4 hour drive from us. It is a town on the edge of a lake surrounded by the Alps. We stayed at an Airbnb cabin outside of town. It was just us and the cows.

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To get around, we invested in the Swiss Rail pass. The pass was expensive (as is absolutely everything in Switzerland) but ended up being worth it in the end. The pass included all travel by train, bus, boat and even gondola. The pass also provided entry into most museums for free or at a discounted rate.

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(E’s first train ride)

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(Riding the boat into Luzern)

Of course we visited the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke). It is the most famous spot in Luzern. The bridge was actually partially burned in 1993 after someone tossed a cigarette over the edge, landing in a boat, which in turn caught fire. This bridge has survived since the 17th century until one cigarette took it down. It has been mostly restored but a large portion of the paintings that had adorned the inside of the bridge have been lost.

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We also visited Mt Pilatus. We took the cograilway train up to the top. It claims to be the steepest cograilway in the world at 48% gradient. Great views along the way.

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You reach the top (2,132m or just shy of 7,000ft) and are greeted by great views of the Alps and also the city of Luzern and the lake. On the way down you can take the train or you can take the aerial tramway and then the gondolas.

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We opted for the tram and gondola option. The aerial tram was a unique experience. It is called the “dragon ride” and is supposed to give you the feeling of flying. I didn’t feel like I was flying but it does move very fast and smooth. The views are absolutely incredible.

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You have to get off the tram about 1/3rd of the way down and switch over to regular gondolas.

At the 2nd stop on the way down is a nice little playground. We have a knack of always finding the playgrounds when we travel.

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The next day we ventured to the Swiss Transportation Museum (Verkehrshaus). This museum was AMAZING! Super kid friendly, lots of activities and history/ education all mixed in. We spent the entire morning there and could have easily done another day there without repeating any activity. It was fun for kids and adults. If you are in Luzern, you need to go to this museum.

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After a day at the museum, we finished our trip with wandering the streets with our friends from Maryland. There was a festival in town, which means… meat on a stick! What a perfect way to end our quick trip to Switzerland. We hope to be back to Switzerland before our time here in Europe comes to an end.

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P.S. Swiss Chocolate is everything you hoped it to be and more. I wish we bought more.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Part 2

Back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen we go.

Summer Solstice Fires

This one wasn’t a planned event, we just happened to be in the right area at the right time. Every year during the summer solstice, it is a tradition in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area and throughout Austria to light fires on the mountain. The tradition has been going on for centuries and it is absolutely breathtaking to see.

It starts out by you seeing all of these twinkling lights almost dancing along the crests of the mountain. Then suddenly these lighted images appear. There are all different images but a large cross was the one most visible to us. All of this was easily viewed from our cabin porch. We sat there completely stunned. First, shock at what in the world is going on. Then, amazement at what was happening in front of us. You slowly begin to realize that all of those twinkling dancing lights are people up on the crests of the mountains moving along and starting fires.

I am completely failing at describing this scene to you. It was so astounding to watch that I didn’t even think to grab my camera or move until the fires were beginning to fade. In that final moment, I snapped a quick picture with my cell phone.

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Obviously this is a terrible picture but I hope it motivates you to Google summer solstice fires, see some amazing photos and really appreciate this event.

Partnach Gorge

This is another classic place to visit if you are in the Garmisch area. To get to the Gorge you actually have to park in an old ski jump parking lot. How old you ask? Well actually it is the ski jump used in the 1936 winter Olympics that were hosted in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It is still used today but the stadium remains in its original form with some maintenance of course. There is actually a nice little café at the base of the jump which we enjoyed after our little hike.

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You walk through the stadium to get to the road that takes you to the gorge. There are signs in the stadium that lead you to the road and then you just have to follow everyone else up the road. You walk along a nice little stream. Of course there is a horse drawn carriage that can take you all the way to the entrance of the gorge but the walk is nice and not that difficult (though it was VERY hot the day we went with limited shade along the road). The Gorge has become something of a tourist hot spot and it now costs money to enter the gorge. This may sound crazy but check out the view.

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Unfortunately we didn’t spend too much time here because the kiddo had used up his energy walking in the heat. If we make it back to the Garmisch area, we will return to this Gorge and hopefully be able to enjoy more of the hiking paths in this area.

O’s Favorite things

No trip is complete without checking out some new playgrounds. Even the views from the playground were breathtaking.

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However, when we asked O what his favorite part of the trip was, the answer was playing in the rain.

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Family Photos

We also got some family photos taken. First time we have had our photos done by a professional photographer since the maternity photos we had done when I was pregnant with O. I can’t give away too much because the photos will be on our Christmas cards this year.

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Despite this long list of adventures, we really only touched the tip of the iceberg in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This is a nice ski area in the winter and there are lots of activities and areas we simply didn’t have time to see on this trip (I’m talking about you Innsbruck, Austria). We had a fantastic time and continue to enjoy our crazy European adventure. Cheers!

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Garmisch-Partenkirchen Part 1

At the end of June, we headed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany along the Austrian border. It was our first glimpse of the Alps and it was spectacular. There are so many things to do in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area. Here is what we were able to see in our week there. I decided to break this post up into 2 different parts because, honestly, I babble on too much and there are a lot of photos to see!

Zugspitze

The Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain at 2,962 meters (a little over 9,700ft). Now that may not sound like much to our Pikes Peak friends, but let me tell you it is just as breathtaking. It is a sharp, steep mountain that rises from the valley floor. There is a cog railway train that takes you to the top and the view is of the Alps flowing into Austria.

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Of course we had to head to the top and we were not disappointed.

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At the “top of Germany”

Uncle Marcus (official title, kind of a big deal) was able to join us on this adventure.

Eibsee

On the way up to the top of the Zugspitze, we caught a glimpse of this beautiful lake. It was the Eibsee.We spent the next day on its shores. The water is unbelievably clear and an enchanting blue. There are hiking trails throughout this area and at the start of the lake there is a hotel, ice cream shop and a rental place to get a paddleboat, paddleboard, etc. Don’t worry this did not detract from the beauty and overall quietness of the lake. You could spend days here.

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This is a picture of O up to his waist in the water. You can barely tell he is sitting in water.

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The boys went out on the lake. The 2nd red dot is their paddleboat. Lucky for O, he had Uncle Marcus and Daddy to push him all around that lake. Ha!

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The girls stayed on shore.

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This lake is so special it has made it into our list of top destinations.

Ettal Abbey

This was a quick side trip we did spontaneously one day. It is an active Abbey and school however the big draw seems to be the beer. They brew a variety of beers on site and sell in the gift shop. The place is stunning including the inside of the church.

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However, I feel that it has turned into a tourist trap. Beautiful scenery, good beer, but don’t know if I would do it again. We went at the very end of the day and were able to avoid the rush as the last tourist bus was loading up as we got there.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle is probably the most famous castle in Germany. It is thought to be the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

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This is another super busy tourist area but if you have the chance you simply have to go. Once you arrive into the parking area (at the bottom of the hill) you have to decide if you are going to walk up or pay for a horse drawn carriage ride. It is a somewhat steep hike but worth it (there is a hiking path and a paved road). Takes 30-45 minutes.

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(view of the castle from the start of the path)

Hiking up to the castle doesn’t actually give you the greatest views. So you have to continue the hike up the hill to Mary’s Bridge. On the way up you will get a great view of Hohendchwangau Castle (try to say that 3 times).

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And views of the valley.

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When you finally make it to Mary’s Bridge you are greeted with this:

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Mary’s Bridge also happens to be a metal bridge with a wood platform. The wood bends and moves with the weight of all these people. I stepped on and NOPE! It totally freaked me out. I was on the bridge for maybe 30 seconds, had Marcus snap a picture and made a run back for solid ground. There is a beautiful waterfall sitting just below the bridge.

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However, everyone is there for this picture.

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Glad we went. Beautiful to see.

There are also tours of the castle that I have heard are fantastic. You must book them far in advance. We have 2 small children so …yeah…outside pics are good for us.

End of Part 1. Part 2 soon to come!