Idstein

Sometimes you don’t need to take a long road trip or a flight to visit someplace unique and full of history in Europe. Sometimes you just need to pop over to the town at the next autobahn exit. That is exactly what we did as we spent an afternoon in the neighboring town of Idstein.

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One of our friends lives in Idstein and helped give us the grand tour. We walked through town to admire the church and the half timbered houses. 

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My favorite has to be Schiefes Haus or Crooked House.

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The highlight of our tour though was the Hexenturm or Witches’ Tower.

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Before making the climb up the tower, we had to stop at the information office in town to get the key. Even this building was gorgeous. 

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After getting the aptly named skeleton key, we headed through the gatehouse to the tower.

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Once we reached the tower, we had to unlock the door, head inside and then lock ourselves inside. Not even kidding. You have to lock yourself inside the witches tower. Those are the rules. After taking it all in for a minute, we started the climb up.

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There are a variety of stair types that become steeper as you get to the top with the final ascent being basically a ladder. The climb isn’t strenuous but you do have to be careful.

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You can see all of Idstein from the top.

Watchman’s view.

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Idstein is a great day trip particularly from Wiesbaden or Frankfurt. It is history and beauty all wrapped up in a nice little compact package.

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For your trip

When you get the key to the tower from the information office, you have to give them something in exchange like your car keys or cellphone. They are limiting the visits to the tower due to COVID so it would be best if you go during the week.

If you don’t have a lovely friend to give you the tour around town, don’t worry! The city of Idstein has 2 self guided walking tours listed on their website. The map for the half timbered houses can be found here: House Map

The map for the historical buildings can be found here: Historical Building Map

After our walkabout, we had a delicious lunch on the patio of Idsteiner Brauhaus. It was a nice way to finish an outing. The brewery also offers growlers of their beer to go. You can find their information here: Brauhaus

Off to our next adventure!

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Staubbach Falls

Of all the waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen valley (and there are many!), Staubbach Falls is probably the most iconic. Depending on your vantage point, the falls appear to be pouring straight into town. For us, it was our cabin.

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Also contributing to the falls popularity, is the close proximity to town and the fact that this hike is FREE. Almost unheard of in Switzerland. We were staying at Camping Jungfrau, so the walk over to the falls was very short. From the campground:

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Once you get to the entrance, the hike up and back is only about half a mile. You start with a short uphill climb area.

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Great views at the top of this trail section.

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At the end of the trail, you come to a tunnel that will take you to the back section of the falls.

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There is a set of stairs that are followed by a rough rock path. Fair warning, this path is slick. It is behind the falls and the mist keeps this area wet almost constantly so hold on to the safety rope and wear appropriate shoes. The view is worth it though.

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Can you see the mist? Can you see the glacier? O is giving you a hint.

Glacier view without the water in the way. It almost looks like a cloud.

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Overall, super easy hike with great views and the experience of standing behind a waterfall. Can’t be missed!

For your trip

Since the falls are free to hike to and they are located so close to town, they are extremely popular. So it is best to get there early in the morning or later in the evening when the majority of the crowd is gone. The falls are lit up at night.

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When leaving the falls, if you continue down the road away from town you will come across a little hut that is selling coffee and ice cream. Stop immediately! This little hut is hiding a secret. They are serving some of the best ice cream in town. All of the ice cream is made in Switzerland from local ingredients and it is super yummy. I don’t know the name of the hut and it isn’t shown on google maps but trust me you want to find it.

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If you go a little farther down the road to the end of it (again going away from town), you will find Camping Jungfrau. There is a small grocery store and a nice restaurant located here. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the restaurant is closed but a BBQ food truck parks here instead. The truck is called New Age BBQ and it was delicious. It is hard to find good BBQ in Europe so do yourself a favor and search for these guys when you are in town.

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Crazy kids with food truck in back.

Happy hiking! And…. eating 🙂

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Furka Pass

We had been hiking around for several days so we decided to take a day off and do a drive. We headed up Furka Pass in search of the Rhône Glacier.

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The Furka Pass is a lovely mountain drive. The road was nicely paved the entire way with the expected sharp turns and steep inclines. It was a beautiful day so there were also lots of bikers (motor and pedal) working hard to get up the mountain.

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We drove straight to the “Ice Grotto” to make sure to get there early and beat the crowd (a theme for our trip). The abandoned Hotel Belvédère shares the parking lot with the ice grotto and is a beacon on the side of the mountain to help you track where you are headed on the pass. Can you see her?

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We were able to snag a spot in the parking lot and headed to the entrance. There was a waterfall in the parking lot so that seemed like a good sign of what we would see ahead.

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Ok so I lied. There was some hiking on this day. You do have to hike down to the glacier from the parking lot entrance (after paying the entrance fee of course).

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There were lots of lovely spots to stop for pictures.

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Going into the glacier was a very surreal experience. It seems like you are stepping back in time a bit. The bubbles trapped in the ice is what really got me.

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The path through the glacier is only about a 100m long but the kids really enjoyed exploring it.

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Again more amazing photo opportunities.

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On the way back there is a short secondary trail that you can take to the other end of the glacier lake. There is a nice waterfall at the end. It also gives a better perspective of the glacier and mountains.

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Glad we got a chance to see a glacier before they are gone.

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For your trip

Lauterbrunnen to the Ice Grotto is a 1.5 hr drive (according to Google). However, you will most likely want to stop along the way for pictures so expect some extra time on that. There are lots of pull off stops and hiking along the route.

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There are actually several stops for food and snacks along the way. The ice grotto itself has a little cafe. The Grand Hotel sits in the valley after you have gone up and over the pass and before you drive up to the Grotto. This was a really beautiful location. At the top of the pass by Totensee is a couple hotels and several restaurants. This is also a really popular hiking spot so this place was absolutely packed when we drove by around lunchtime.

We stopped at a food truck on the way down the pass that had been recommended to us. I don’t know if the food truck has an actual name, but if you are looking for it on Google maps it has been labeled as “Lokalspezialitäten Holzofenbrot”, which is just Local speciality wood fire bread. They sell homemade bread, cheese and butter and it was amazing. Super delicious! They only speak German and of course cash only (it is the side of a mountain after all!). Oh and bring your own knife.

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Now I don’t want to end this post on a bad note but I do want to make sure you have realistic expectations for your trip. The tunnel that is drilled into the glacier is only done once a year and then they spend the rest of the time trying to keep it from melting. We arrived at the end of July so the tunnel had already suffered through the heat of the summer. They have placed a white tarp over the tunnel to try to protect it. Here’s the entrance.

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On the inside, there are some spots that have already completely melted and collapsed. It gives that abandoned Everest base camp feel.

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Overall, it was still a great experience and if you are doing the pass its worth the stop.

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Dwarf Trail

We heard a rumor about some friendly dwarfs living on a mountainside in Haslital area. We thought we better go investigate.IMG_0103

There are two adorable, family-friendly dwarf trails that can be found in the Haslital area. We decided on the Käserstatt trail. To get to there, you head up the gondola at Hasliberg-Twing and the trail starts right at the gondola stop.

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We followed this map to see if we could catch up with the busy dwarfs.

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We lucked out with beautiful weather and some amazing views.

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At each stop, you find a little house (of various sizes) and usually some kind of activity. There is also a story sign at each stop (both in German and in English) that keeps the excitement going for the kids.

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In this picture, E had to climb up a ladder and reach for the metal chain to “ring” the doorbell to see if this dwarf was home.

The bigger houses were absolutely amazing. The interiors were sparkling clean and there were so many detailed decorations in side.

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The kids loved having to search to find the houses (and climb up the trees).

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However, I think their favorite thing was this “cable car”.

 

The kiddos did an excellent job of hiking this trail.

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Though E needed help from time to time.

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The hike is about 3 km long and the trail website estimated that it would take 1.5 hrs. It took us 2.5 hrs and I felt we could have spent more time along the trail.

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We tried our best but we didn’t see a single dwarf. They were always off in the forest working. 🙂 We’re glad they were willing to leave their houses open for us to explore while they were away.

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For your trip:

As mentioned above, there are 2 different dwarf trails. You have to take different gondolas to reach each one. So you will have to plan ahead of which one looks best for you.

For our trail, we parked right at the Hasliberg-Twing gondola. There is a huge parking lot there. The drive up is a mountain drive for sure with lots of twists and turns. Here’s our GPS on the way up.

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Thats a pretzel road if I have ever seen one.

You take the gondola up to Käserstatt and then you will walk down to the middle stop of Lischen. You then ride the gondola back down to the Hasliberg station.

There was an excellent picnic area (with restroom) about halfway through with a nice little stream that runs next to it. I would recommend bringing a change of clothes so that the kids can play in the stream for a while.

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The trail is based on storybooks about Muggestutz. You can find out more about this dwarf on the website and there are also free coloring/activity sheets available to print to either take with or to do before/after the hike. That website is: https://www.meiringen-hasliberg.ch/en/  and then click on Muggestutz.

Happy Hiking!

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Aare Gorge (Aareschlucht)

The Aare gorge is a stunning stop just outside the town of Meiringen. This was about a 40 minute drive for us from Lauterbrunnen but I had tagged this as a rainy day destination. It was an excellent choice.

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We got there just as the entrance was opening. There were only 2 other families in line which allowed for easy distancing (as is needed in the time of COVID). From the outside, it doesn’t look like it is going to be anything spectacular.

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Once inside, the gorge shares her beauty with you.

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Part of the walk is through caves but most of it is done on wooden walkways, dangling on the edge of the cliffs.

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During this stroll through the gorge, the children are encouraged to look for the “Tatzelwurm” and its family. There are apparently multiple worms throughout the gorge.

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O and I looked everywhere and did not get a single glimpse of a worm. Ha! Guess we will have to go back!

After the walk, the kids got some time on the playground out front as the rain had stopped.

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The kids were holding up well with all the hiking so we decided our next destination would be a bit more of a challenge. That story is coming up next.

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For your trip:

There are 2 entrances to the Aareschlucht (East or West). The west entrance is the one that is considered more kid friendly as it has the large playground. It also has a shop and restaurant with plenty of outdoor seating.

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You can walk through the gorge and back, which is what we did due to very few people being present. Currently (due to COVID), they are allowing people to ride the train for free between the east and west entrances. They are trying to encourage one way traffic to reduce close contact between people and crowding. Remember a mask is required on the train so bring one with you if this is your plan.

Right next to the west entrance of the gorge is Reichenbach Falls. It is the setting for where Sherlock Holmes was murdered in the final book. There is a little funicular train that takes you up to the falls so this could easily be combined with a trip to the gorge.

If you are coming from Lauterbrunnen/Interlaken area, you will also pass the Giessbach Waterfall on the way to/from the gorge. This is a very popular waterfall to visit and could also be added to your day trip. Happy Trails!

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Allmendhubel

Another day, another playground. Day 2 of our Switzerland trip and we went up the mountain early to beat the rain. We decided on Allmendhubel, which was fairly close to our base in Lauterbrunnen.

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We caught the gondola up from Stechelberg, which took us to the town of Mürren. Mürren is an adorable, traditional Swiss mountain town that is completely car free. We had to walk across part of the town to reach the funicular train up to Allmendhubel.

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After a short ride, we had arrived! The best part…. we had the entire playground to ourselves!

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This was an excellent playground. It had all the essentials like slides, climbing ropes, swings and a zipline. It also had some bonus areas like a “cheese shop” with stackable cheese rolls, tunnels that ran under the playground, and a fake cow that you could “milk”. You had to pour water into the wooden cows mouth and kids could then “milk” the water out of the udders. Sounds crazy but was E’s favorite.

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It was such a peaceful location. We were able to sit and watch the kids play with nothing but the sound of cowbells echoing in the background.

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Next to the playground is a small flower trail. It has planters along the trail with all of the local wild flowers planted and labeled. There are also cute hands-on educational activities. Everything was in German and English.

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The trail cuts through a cow field so watch for cow pies!

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After our hike, we had an ice cream treat and retraced our steps back down.

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We made it back to our cabin just in time for the rain.

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Another lovely day in Switzerland in the books.

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Info for your trip:

There are 2 ways to get up to Allmendhubel from the Lauterbrunnen area. You can take the train from Lauterbrunnen or you can take the Stechelberg gondola. We heard the Stechelberg gondola was more scenic so we chose this option. For either option, there are gondola switches and train change overs but they are pretty straight forward. For either option, you still need to walk across Mürren to get to the funicular but it is a short walk with great views.

We were able to buy a combined ticket for the Stechelberg gondola and the Allmendhubel funicular at the Stechelberg station. The Stechelberg station also had a ton of parking available, which might make it easier to get to compared to the Lauterbrunnen station. Oh and it has a waterfall very close to the parking lot that you can pop over to see. Win-win!

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Männlichen

We recently did a week long trip to the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. It was the perfect place to get some fresh mountain air and some serious outdoor time. For our first full day of holiday, we headed up the Maenlichen gondola.

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Maenlichen is a kid friendly area and is know for the cow trail or LieselotteTrail. We didn’t get a chance to do the trail but did see the map and it looks super fun.

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The first cow stop is located at the gondola station at the bottom.

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It has been awhile since we have been on a gondola so it felt like a new experience for the kiddos.

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Once up top, you are greeted by a gigantic cow playground.

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You go up via the backside and slide out the mouth. Ha! On the inside there are a few play items and you can climb to the top for a view of the surrounding mountains.

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Surrounding the cow, there is other playground equipment with a stunning backdrop.

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(These are mini trampolines. It made it look like they were jumping for the udders. Ha!)

The top of the Maenlichen gondola is also where you can start the “Royal Walk” to the peak. At the top is a viewing platform in the shape of a crown and views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks. The kiddos and I stayed at the playground while Gav ran to the top. He literally ran to the top and back down. He will use any excuse to run at altitude. Ha!

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It was a nice morning trip and a good way to start our holiday. We were back at the cabin in time for lunch.

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Info for your trip:

The Maenlichen gondola starts in Grindelwald. There is a large parking lot just outside the station and it is 5 CHF to park *cash only*. They are building a new Jungfrau cablecar at this location. The building is huge and they are putting in a parking garage next to it. This wasn’t open during our trip but you may want to check if it is open when you go.

Masks are required in the gondolas at this time. They were allowing people to space out and it was usually only one family per gondola which was nice. Kids under 6 travel free. Gondolas in Switzerland are always pricey so make sure to check the current rates before you go or you may be shocked when you get there. And as always, go early!

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That’s the end of day 1. More to come!

Faces in the Forest: Steckeschlääfer-Klamm

This summer is a bit weird, which I am sure it is for everyone. All of our usual activities and trips have been cancelled. So we have been searching for some fun and unique local activities to keep us busy. That is how we found Steckeschlääfer-Klamm.

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This little hidden gem is a short hiking path tucked between the vineyards and the Rhein near Bingen am Rhein. The trail winds through the Hasselbach gorge and along the path you will find 66 faces carved into trees and stumps.

The trail is flat and very easy. They have placed multiple bridges across the little creek that runs along the gorge. It was a child’s dream.

The hunt for each new face was so exciting for the kids.

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You walk through the gorge and then back on the same path. This gives you an opportunity to look again in case you missed any faces 🙂  We managed 59 out of 66 faces. Not too bad!

This is a great way to start a day with the kiddos. Highly recommend for families with small children who want to get out in nature.

Getting There:

The address provided for the Klamm didn’t work with our GPS. However, you can put Steckeschlääfer-Klamm into Google maps and it will take you directly there. On the google map, you will see Wanderparkplatz just south of the Klamm. This is actually the entrance and the perfect place to park. You will see this sign:

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It is a 40-50 min drive from Wiesbaden. Have fun!

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Indoor Skiing

The kids just had a week off of school for the ski break. Yes they get a whole week off to go skiing. This is our 3rd year at the school and we hadn’t managed to go skiing on the actual ski break, until now. Well, sort of….

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Instead of making a big trip to one of the famous ski resorts in Europe, we thought we would start the kids off easy at an indoor ski hall not too far from our home. Alpenpark in Neuss (also known as Jever Ski Halle) is about 2 hours from our house and had everything we needed for the kiddos first proper lesson.

You are able to rent all of your gear right there and pick-up (and return!) is in the locker room. So there is no lugging around of equipment. This was a welcome relief for this mom, who is the carrier of all things. You pick up your gear, get it on, walk through the turn-style and you are ready to go.

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There is one large run and then a smaller kids/teaching area. We spent our time in the latter.

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Gavin was tasked with the duty of instructor so we had a tag team approach. He would go in with one kiddo at a time and I would sit in the cafe with the other one until it was their turn to switch.

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I did have to wrestle both children into their winter gear and boots but I think Gavin may have had the tougher of the two jobs. Ha!

Once the kiddos had enough of skiing for the day, we were able to use the sled hill that is also located inside.

The Park provides the sleds for free (no outside sleds allowed) and this area is included with your general admission.

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We ended up staying at the park for the weekend. There is a regular hotel and there are “treehouse” family chalets. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I got of our treehouse.

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Also attached to the Alpenpark is a playground, mini golf, Kletterpark (climbing park) and something called Funfussball. Funfussball appears to be like mini golf but played with a soccer ball. All of these things (minus the playground) were closed during our visit but would have been a welcome addition to our weekend.

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We had a great weekend and the hotel was excellent. However, I think next time we will make this a one day trip. At 2 hours each way, it is a long day in the car but reasonable. This is an excellent location for beginner skiers and will most likely be our go-to option until the kids are ready for real mountain fun.

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Das Praehistorium

What’s the best remedy for a cold Saturday in Germany? Why a gigantic indoor dinosaur museum of course! Gondwana- Das Praehistorium in Schiffweiler was where we spent our day.

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Das Praehistorium calls itself an immersive museum and that has to be the best way to describe it. It has typical museum things such as real dinosaur bones and informative displays.

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However, it also has these rooms that have been recreated to simulate the ancient world with great attention to detail. In these little “worlds”, the dinosaurs of that era are on display as full sized animated animals.

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The museum warns you about these animations ahead of time as they are rather loud and in most scenes they are eating something (so a bit bloody). The museum actually recommends that children should be 6 and older as they do not offer a refund if children become scared and do not want to continue through the museum. However, O loved it.

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There are also multiple little shows and movies that play throughout the museum. Hand held sets for English are provided free of charge at the entrance for the adults. We skipped most of the movies as the staff warned us they can be scary but we did watch the “World’s biggest dinosaur show” at the end. There were large animatronic dinosaurs kind of fighting to protect their young. It was really impressive. Though E started chanting “Eat those eggs” at the Aucasaurus, so that got a little weird.

Once we completed the dinosaur section, there was also an entire wing dedicated to the evolution of man, which was also fascinating to walk through.

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Once we made it through the museum without a single tear shed, we celebrated by enjoying the indoor playground that is part of the museum.

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Pros: Unique museum experience, lots of hands on activities, designed well with good mixture of regular museum, movies and themed rooms, and an indoor playground! Cons: Some of the dinosaur scenes were graphic and loud (the museum repeatedly warns you about this so you know going in and they are happy to direct you around things they think might scare the children), distance from us ( 1 hr 45 min) and the price. It was 58 EUR for a family card ( 2 adults and 2 kids). However, to be fair, you can spend an entire day in there with all of the shows and the indoor playground.