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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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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Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Fall has been kind to us here in Germany this year. We have had several days of warm (ish) temperatures and sunshine. We decided to take advantage of this weather and make a quick weekend trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

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Rothenburg is one of the iconic towns that people think of when you think of Germany. It is located along the Romantic Road in southern Germany and is a little over a 2 hour drive from Wiesbaden. Rothenburg is a very well preserved medieval town, which can be hard to come by due to World War II bombings throughout the country. When looking at the history of the city, you discover that the US did bomb the town during World War II but the US also understood the importance (and beauty) of the city. So after the initial bombing, the US troops negotiated with the German troops and offered to spare the city from further destruction if the German troops were willing to surrender the city (which they did). Some rebuilding had to be done but most of the town was spared.

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For the Harry Potter fans out there, scenes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1 and 2) were filmed in Rothenburg.

Ok back to our little trip. Lucky for us, my new friend Kate had just been to Rothenburg so she gave us some great info with the very best info being where the playground is located.

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This lovely playground is located next to the P4 parking lot. We were able to let O burn some energy and have a nice picnic lunch before heading into the walled city.

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The entrance into town is pretty impressive.

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Once inside, there was a set of very steep steps leading up to a walkway that goes along the wall. There are several sets of stairs dispersed along the wall so you can decide when you want to climb up and when you are ready to head down.

The walkway is sturdy but the handrails are not. E was in the backpack but O was required to hold hands at all times. It is not the most toddler friendly activity in town but still worth the high blood pressure. O of course loved it.

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The wall circles most of the city and you can walk the majority of its length. We just walked along a small section until we reached one of the main streets near another entrance point.

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This town is just absolutely stunning. It has amazing architecture, beautiful colors, and unbelievable charm.

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It is also home to a pretty famous Christmas store (Käthe Wohlfahrt). The store has beautiful Christmas ornaments and decorations for sale but it is also just fun to walk through. There are dancing bears at the entrance, large Christmas trees, and a massive spinning Christmas Pyramid. Unfortunately, they have signs everywhere saying no pictures allowed so you will have to use your imagination. I am a HUGE Christmas decoration fanatic so I absolutely loved the store. The entrance to the Christmas Museum is also located within the store. We didn’t make it to the store until the end of the day so taking the little ones into the museum section wasn’t in the cards for us.

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For our final activity, we picked up some schneeballen for a snack. This is a pastry that is famous in the Rothenburg area. I had read a blog post about them before going and it stated that they were like donuts. No! They are not donuts. They are strips of pastry balled up and deep-fried. I felt like it was similar to fried wonton strips in ball form with toppings. I must say that I was not a fan but they are extremely popular and you can find them in just about every other store in town. This is one of the only places to get them so I say if you are in Rothenburg then just go for it and try it out. Oh and schnapps. They are known for their plum schnapps so get some of that too.

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There are several museums in town that we did not get a chance to see but may be worth it if you are visiting. There is a night watchman’s tour, which I have heard wonderful things about. They do an English version and a German version. We did not stay in Rothenburg for the night so we didn’t make it to this but if we ever come back it is on the top of our to do list. For this trip, we went at the end of October and there were not nearly as many tourists as we had anticipated. During our whole day there, we only saw one guided tour group (with the leader holding up the sign for everyone to follow). There were no crowds and no wait times at any of the main attractions.

Overall, we had a wonderful time in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It is as beautiful and as charming as people describe. If you are in Germany it should be on the top of your list of places to visit.

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Barefoot Park

Last weekend we ventured to our first barefoot park (Barfuβpfad). The park was located in Bad Sobernheim, which is about an hour drive from our house. It was such a unique experience with lots of sensory and balance challenges for all.

When we first arrived, we parked in a parking lot of what appeared to be an abandoned building. We assumed we were lost (as usual) but our friend had arrived earlier and instructed us to follow the path to the park. There are white feet spray-painted onto the path to guide you were to go. There is a small fee to enter ( 4 euros per adult and kids under 3 are free). There is an outdoor locker area near the entrance. You can pay a euro to have a locker with key or you can leave your shoes on a shelf free of charge. There are absolutely no shoes allowed in the park.

Ok on to the good stuff. The first “obstacle” on the path was a muddy walking path.

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(walking up to the mud)

Notice O’s yellow shirt. Well that shirt didn’t last. O stepped onto the ramp to enter the muddy water area and slipped straight into the water getting completely soaked. It was a bit cold that morning so the cold water was definitely a shock for him. After some screaming, we made it to the other side of the mud pit and luckily we were prepared with a change of clothes for the kiddo. It was a rough start but after that first slippery mess it was all smooth sailing.

There were tons of balance obstacles like these moving planks. You can also see a balance board in the back.

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More water obstacles.

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Don’t worry we made it safely through this one and there was no mud. The park also did a great job of alternating between high sensory and low sensory items. For example after walking through the water hole that had large, hard river rocks, the next part of the path was soft grass.

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Here’s some wooden poles set up at different angles followed by soft sand as the contrast.

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As mentioned before it was a cool morning, so that cool sand felt amazing on your feet after walking over those harder surfaces. It really was a work out for the feet and calves both from a sensation standpoint and an actual muscular workout.

There were some more challenging areas in the park such as this river crossing.

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However, the park was set up so that you could always bypass something if it was too much. There is a bridge just past this river crossing area, which is where we made our crossing with the toddlers. All this talk of river crossing immediately makes me think of Oregon Trail (the computer game). Do you wish to ford the river? Don’t worry no oxen were harmed in the crossing of this river.

The trail through the park is just over 2 miles in length. There was always a different obstacle coming up so the kiddos never got bored along the way. There was also a playground toward the end of the route.

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The final obstacle was a long rope bridge or a boat that you pulled across using a pulley system. We opted for the rope bridge.

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There are benches and picnic tables throughout the park if you want to stop and have lunch or a snack. You can bring your own food in with you. There is a nice food area at the end, including beer and wine for sale. There was plenty of seating in this area overlooking the river.

Overall, we had a great time at the barefoot park. We are sure we will be visiting here again!