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.

Mathematikum

The winters in Germany are long. The three weeks of school Christmas break are even longer. After our millionth trip to an indoor playground, we needed to mix it up a bit, which brought us to Mathematikum in Giessen.

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This little museum is about an hour from our house and features super fun, hands-on activities to help kiddos learn about math and physics.

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This table is actually spinning.

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Giant bubbles are always a hit.

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Puzzles, puzzles and more puzzles.

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This is a code breaking game. I kept changing it to English and E kept turning it back to German. Either way we never broke the code. Ha!

We took a break halfway through and had a snack in their café. It was a really small café but had nice choices and the cappuccino was a pi-ece of art. Oh that was bad. Ha!

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We finished our day with a few more puzzles.

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The top floor of the museum has a section for the littlest Einstein’s (under 3).

Overall, it was a nice quick day trip and something fun to do indoors during the break.

Playmobil Funpark

Nuremberg is one of the most famous cities in Germany. It is known for the unique city center, sausages, lebkuchen, and the Christmas Market.

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We visited the Christmas Market last December and you can find that post here: Christmas Markets and Prague

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All of these things are great but for those families with children there is also another hidden gem in Nuremberg. It is Playmobil Funpark!

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This amusement park is focused on active and imaginative play. There are no rides. Instead it is play areas and playgrounds that are set up around different Playmobil themes. For example:

Castle:

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Farm:

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Noah’s Ark:

This area had an “under 3” water table and a 3+ water table which were different heights. Our kids would have stayed here the entire time if possible.

Fairies:

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And those are just the areas we were able to get to before the kids were worn out. We missed an entire water and mud playground, a pirate ship and the dinosaur area. I absolutely love this place. It is an ideal park for young kids and such a fun and unique set up.

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We were able to have lunch in their indoor facility. It has large play areas filled with Playmobil toys. There is also an indoor playground.

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They have these little cubbies tucked in with the eating tables. The wall was just high enough to keep her in. Perfect!

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I found out that in the winter they close down most of the park but you can get into this indoor play area for only EUR 1.50. That is a steal of a deal. So if you are driving past the park in the winter stop by and let the kids run wild while you enjoy a coffee.

The park is also not too far from Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is another famous spot. We had the Littleboy family with us so we made sure to make a trip over there as well.

We have been to Rothenburg several times before and it never disappoints. You can read more about the town here: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Overall we had a great little weekend trip. I highly recommend Playmobil Funpark. So get out there and have some fun!

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Berlin Part 2

On to part 2. We are going to start out with a tourist trap but it will get better!

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie is a tourist trap. I’m sorry but there is no other way to describe it.

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If you get a little closer there is a booth with some old looking sand bags around it and you can get your picture taken with folks dressed up in WWII era uniforms. I honestly would say just skip this stop. However, if you don’t go toward Checkpoint Charlie then you won’t be able to hit our next stop.

Currywurst Museum

Only 2 blocks from Checkpoint Charlie is this adorable gem of a museum.

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We are big fans of currywurst, which is sliced sausage with this amazing sauce that is also sprinkled with curry powder and served with fries. It is served absolutely everywhere.

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Here’s your order now.

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The museum was small but very interactive. There were video games, gigantic pillow fries (to go with the ketchup dripping off the ceiling), and even a currywurst cart where you can pretend to serve up some sausages.

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At the end of the tour you can also get different currywurst samples at the food stand (different ticket options give you 1-3 samples at the end of your visit).

I don’t think this museum is for everyone but we absolutely had a blast during our visit. We even had to get a little currywurst souvenir.

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Ritter Sport

Once you leave the Currywurst Museum, I would recommend heading over to the Ritter Sport Café. It is about 6 blocks from the museum. You can hop on the U-bahn (underground train) and take it one stop down or you can just walk. I recommend the walk because you will get to walk right past the Deutscher Dome and the French Cathedral.

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When we got to Ritter Sport (popular German chocolate brand) the store and café were actually not very busy. This place is usually packed as it has become famous for the place to make your own chocolate bar. The kids were getting tired though so we opted to buy some prepackaged chocolate and head out. I did get in line to make my own bar but the wait was 30-45 minutes and that was with only 1 family (of 4) in line in front of me. I am assuming the wait is much longer on busy days so be prepared. I think the majority of the wait is for allowing the chocolate to set properly. In case you are wondering, I was going to order a dark chocolate bar with cornflakes and marshmallows.

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Computerspielemuseum (Computer Video Game Museum)

While looking up some fun spots to visit while in Berlin, I came across this not so well known museum. The moment I saw video game museum I knew we would have to go for my techie husband. It seriously did not disappoint. It had all the old school video games you could imagine (which you are allowed to play!!). They also had the games set up in little display areas that resembled 80s bedrooms or a 90s dorm room (you get the idea).

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The museum is not huge so easily managed in under a couple hours (unless you really get into a game). It is also only a block away from the U-bahn stop so getting there is a breeze.

Weberweise Station

After leaving the Computerspielemuseum, we headed back to the U-bahn station that is just a block away. That station is Weberweise. As we were standing on the platform we noticed a sign posted on the wall.

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The sign reads “On February 26, 1945, shortly before the end of World War II, this U-Bahn station was hit by three bombs during a heavy air bombardment. Of the hundreds of people seeking shelter here on the platform or in the two stationary trains here, many more perished than the 108 victims who could later be identified.”

It was chilling to read. And here we stood with our little family in that very same spot.

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It just amazes me how much history there is all around us and we would have never noticed if we didn’t take the time to stop and read the sign.

Museum of Technology

We hadn’t originally planned to visit the Museum of Technology. However, E started feeling sick during our trip. The hard part when traveling is that if one kiddo is sick that means that other one has double the energy and that there is no where to escape in a hotel room. So the boys headed to the Museum of Technology, which was just a few blocks away from our hotel, and E and I stayed in the hotel room to give her some rest.

From the boys’ account of the museum, it was a really fun, interactive museum. It is absolutely massive in size and the boys spent 3.5 hours there, which might be a new 3 year-old attention span record.

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There is also a playground and beer garden (biergarten) at the Museum (German standard). Unfortunately for Gavin the biergarten was closed as it was Sunday. This for sure is a museum that you could spend a whole day enjoying.

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Overall we really enjoyed our time in Berlin. It was a fun, active and vibrant city. The public transportation was insanely easy even with a baby and a toddler in tow. Despite the long list of stuff we were able to visit during our trip, we feel like we have just scratched the surface of what this city has to offer. Berlin would be worth another trip.

Random Trip Info

If you are thinking about heading to Berlin here is some detail about how we stayed and traveled with 2 kids. First, we stayed at the Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz hotel. This hotel is very kid/family-friendly and has multiple room options that are accommodating to families (such as rooms with bunk-beds). This hotel is also 1 block away from a U-bahn stop.

Getting around Berlin is extremely easy. Their public transportation is excellent. We did purchase the Berlin Welcome Card, which allowed us unlimited public transportation and discounts at certain museum and tourist hotspots. We bought 2 adult tickets but the kids were free. For us we didn’t really save by using the card but we didn’t have to bother getting tickets every time we got on a bus or train. With the discounts to the museums we just broke even, which was fine with us. The convenience of the Welcome Card made it worth it to us. If you are going to be able to enjoy more of the museums then the Welcome Card is the way to go for sure (particularly if your kids are older). If you are just using it for public transport then there are better options.

English is very commonly spoken in Berlin. Everywhere you go things are posted in German and English. You will have absolutely no problem managing even if you don’t speak a word of German.

The whole city and public transport are stroller-friendly. Sometimes you have to do a little bit of searching for the elevators but they are there somewhere.

There is usually a grocery store in the shopping malls if you are looking for one. Staying close to an Aldi or Lidl (discount grocery store) is always a bonus. Remember that pharmacies are not usually open on Sundays but there is usually one open at the main train stations. You have to go to a pharmacy to get any kind of medicine like Tylenol, Advil, etc. We may have had to use this on our trip. Typically in Germany everything closes down on Sunday but I didn’t feel this way in Berlin. Lots of stores were closed but most museums and tourist attractions were open. Restaurants were probably 50/50 on being open.

Have fun and safe travels!

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Berlin Part 1

You cannot live in Germany and not visit Berlin. It is one of the most iconic cities in Europe. It had to be done. We took advantage of O’s 4-day school weekend and hopped over to see the sights. Here is what we were able to manage in 4 days with 2 kids at 3 and under.

Berlin Zoo

When traveling with children, a stop at a zoo is a requirement. It is a bonus when the zoo happens to be the iconic Berlin zoo. We got there bright and early.

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First chair! Wait I think that might only be a ski thing….

The zoo was absolutely beautiful and very well maintained.

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The big crowd pleaser at the moment is the panda house.

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In the middle of the zoo is an amazing playground. It is actually more like 4 playgrounds that are all connected with equipment for varying age ranges. Here is the toddler playground.

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There is a lovely café right next to the playground to grab a coffee (within viewing range of the children) and of course the ice cream stands are strategically stationed close by as well. The kids (even the big one) loved it and it was hard to pull them away once it was time to move on.

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We opted to do the Zoo and Aquarium combo ticket. The aquarium actually looks really small but it packs a big punch.

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They had some really interesting jellyfish displays (everyone had their phones out to snap a picture). They had some crazy creatures.

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What happened to this guy?

They also had lizards, reptiles and other creepy crawlers. Our kiddos were pretty tired by the time we got to the aquarium so we kind of sprinted through it but if your kiddos can tolerate a full day then I would recommend doing both.

Brandenburg Gate

One of Berlin’s iconic landmarks is the Brandenburg gate. We stayed fairly close to the gate so we were able to walk by and do the standard tourist stop and quick pictures.

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Napoleon walked though this gate and so did we. So there is that….

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Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

This Memorial is only a block from the Brandenburg Gate. There is a lot of controversy surrounding it from what it symbolizes (like what do the blocks represent), what it doesn’t say and even what material was used to build it. It gives you this weird kind of confused feeling and from my understanding that is exactly how it is supposed to make you feel. I don’t want to comment too much on it. I highly suggest looking up some info on the site if you have an opportunity and visit the memorial if you get a chance so you can decide for yourself.

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East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is 1.3 km of the Berlin Wall that has been preserved with artwork painted on the wall with various themes. It is an interesting mix of contemporary art and history.

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I found it really interesting and it was worth the trip for us. There is also a museum at the start (or the end depending on the direction you are traveling I guess) of the wall. We didn’t make it that far.

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The gallery is a little out of the way of the other sites but well worth the trip.

 

That’s it for Part 1. Part 2 coming soon.

Frauenstein

My New Year’s Resolution to keep our blog up to date has officially failed. I had a good run going and now I have fallen a bit behind. Here is a quick blog to get me back into the groove and so you can see what we have been up to this spring.

Germany does spring in style. Everything here blooms. I mean everything! Everywhere you look the plants are in full color. I have been searching out some more local places for us to visit and I discovered that there is a beautiful street in Bonn, Germany that has amazing cherry blossoms that turn the street pink in the spring. The pictures looked amazing but the drive to see a street of flowers didn’t seem like the best idea with 2 small ones in tow (apparently it gets very busy).

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Luckily for us, there is a town only 30 minutes away that also happens to be famous for its flowering trees and cherry blossoms. That town is Frauenstein.

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As you drive into Frauenstein, the large cherry blossom trees are right there on the main street. When we arrived, they were in full bloom.

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Another view:

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Frauenstein is also known for its many fruit trees and the fruit wines that are made in the region. We had just missed the peak season for the blooming fruit trees but some of them still had some white blooms left.

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We parked downtown and were able to find a walking path through the vineyards and orchards. Germany is known for its walking paths. No matter where you go you can usually find a nice smooth path to get into the fields and nature quickly.

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It was a lovely day and we all enjoyed getting out and enjoying the sunshine. We are starting to find our way around to the little hidden gems. More blogs to come soon!

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Cologne

Spring has sprung! Well…not really. Some flowers have bloomed and we have also had some snow. Winter is still trying to hold on but we are finally turning the corner toward some nicer weather. This weekend there was SUNSHINE!!

Sunshine means time for another quick day trip. We headed north to Cologne.

I knew going into this trip that it was going to be a quick get in and get out kind of trip. The kiddos could rest/nap on the car rides there and back (1.5 hours each way) and we would attempt to see as much as possible as quickly as possible before they crashed. Here is what we managed to accomplish:

Chocolate Museum (Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum)

After we parked our car, we headed straight for the river and toward the Chocolate Museum. As mentioned before it was nice and sunny, so we were able to enjoy a little walk by the river on the way to the Museum.

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The Chocolate Museum is extremely popular. It is always busy and there is always a line. I have heard mixed reviews about the museum itself particularly for small children (though it must be good because it feels like everyone in town is there) so I decided to take a different route.

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I had read that you can go into the gift shop and café without going into the museum itself. So that is exactly what we did. We weaved our way around and through the long winding line inside the museum and at the back of the entrance was a really nice large café. It had stunning views overlooking the river.

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(Apparently there is a nice view behind me. I was distracted)

There was a handful of people in the café itself despite the large crowd outside. We had coffee, cake and a children’s hot chocolate.

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(Good to the last bite)

We didn’t get to enjoy the museum itself but it was a happy compromise for us. O seemed to approve.

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German Sport and Olympic Museum

Right next door to the Chocolate Museum is the German Sport and Olympic Museum. This is the real hidden gem.

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This museum as the title implies follows the history of German Sports with a focus on Olympic sports. There are lots of wonderful displays with signs in German and English. Most importantly, there are hands-on activities throughout the museum! There was a balance beam, a long jump, gymnastic bars, balance boards, etc. The list goes on and on. O loved it!

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Then to top it all off, there is a soccer field on the roof of the museum. You can go play a game (or let the kids run wild) with a nice view of the river and city.

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After providing the kids chocolate and a super fun interactive museum, it was my turn to sneak in something I wanted to see.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is the icon of the city of Cologne. The cathedral dominates the skyline of the city and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you see it from a distance, you can already tell that it is going to be immense. It still doesn’t prepare you for its colossal size. It is simply massive. (Did I mention it was big?)

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(of course I forgot my fancy camera at home. Bummer!)

Despite the cathedral being there in all its glory, O was not impressed.

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Oh the joys of traveling with toddlers! Needless to say we grabbed a quick late lunch (which is most likely the cause of the meltdown) and headed out of town. Attempting to travel around Europe with two small children can be challenging.

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(This is his “I am mad and not talking to you” face)

We don’t get to see the sites as in depth as we would like (and some we skip all together) but we are trying our best to make the most out of this opportunity. Thanks for following along with us!

Burg Eltz

It has been a cold winter here in Germany. There hasn’t been much snow but it has been chilly. We have been struggling to find things to keep us busy while we have been trapped inside. I should mention that at O’s school they have continued to play outside everyday. I have heard this saying from multiple people we have met here “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” We haven’t fully adapted to the idea of being out in all weather but we are slowly getting there. We are starting to emerge from our winter hibernation and we even managed to sneak in a trip to a castle when the sun was shining.

Burg Eltz is a beautiful castle located about 1.5 hours from us, near Wierschem, Germany. We didn’t do much research but just jumped in the car and went for it since the weather was in our favor. When we arrived we found a large parking lot right next to the hiking trail. The trail is a nice packed dirt path that is rather wide. It runs along the edge of a hill with the Eltzbach river winding in the valley below it.

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The hike was not difficult and was beautiful. Since I did not do my research before coming to the castle, I kept looking around all the surrounding hills to see where the castle was located. I was expecting it to be perched up high somewhere. I could not see any sign of it. We rounded a corner and boom! There she was.

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The castle is sitting in a valley but perched on a natural rock outcropping. The morning fog was still clinging around the edges of the castle giving it a very mystical and medieval feeling.

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The castle is unique in that: 1) It has been owned by the same family since the time it was built until today and 2) the castle was never destroyed by war or other incidents. Most of the castle is in its original state. It is like a little slice of the past hidden in a stunning green valley in the middle of Germany.

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During the summer months, I have heard the castle is very busy with tourists. There are several restaurants, guided tours and a gift shop inside. Everything was closed for the winter when we were there and only a handful of people had made the hike over to see the castle. It made us feel like we had discovered some unknown gem in the middle of the woods.

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(Looking for dragons)

After pausing for a snack (because…kids), we decided to follow the road back to the parking lot instead of the trail. We thought this would be the shorter route and the road is only for the shuttle bus, which was not running at the time. However, if you are going to the castle I do not advise this route, particularly if you are going with kids or if the road is wet/icy. The road ended up being rather steep and it switched back on itself 3 different times. On the positive side, there is a nice overlook at the top of the hill that provides an excellent view.

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If we were to do it again I think the best option would be:

From the parking lot take the trail to the castle. The surprise of the castle coming around that bend in the trail is wonderful. I would also take the trail back to the parking lot. Once back to the starting point, I would then walk down the paved road to the overlook. Enjoy the view and head back to the car.

In my opinion, seeing the castle in the winter is the best time. There are fewer people there and it was free! There is a little hut set up at the entrance to the parking lot. It wasn’t open when we were there but I have a feeling they charge for parking in the summer. The down side to the winter is that you are not able to tour the inside of the castle. I have heard fantastic reviews about the castle tour but honestly that is probably something we would have skipped since we have 2 small children.

It was a perfect little day trip. We got to be outside, enjoy the sun and take in a beautiful castle. The sunshine gave us hope that spring is around the corner!

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