Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Last Day

It's our last day in Esslingen. We leave early tomorrow morning for the airport, and it's just now decided to start snowing. It's supposed to warm up by tomorrow so we shouldn't have any delays.

Here's a shot I just took on the office balcony overlooking the vineyards. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Neuschwanstein Castle

Here are some of the shots from our trip to Neuschwanstein Castle a couple weeks ago.

The lake at the base of the mountain.

During our climb up to the castle. The lake is the same pictured above.

A shot from the castle, of the adjacent bridge we would be hiking to next. There was no photography allowed inside the castle, but the exterior views are the best anyways.

From the bridge. The speck above the castle is a parachuter. Click for hi-res.

The FULL view. If this looks familiar, that's because this was the castle that inspired Walt Disney to create Disney World.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Budapest & Vienna

My next trip starts Sunday! I'll be catching an overnight bus to Budapest and staying at a hostel there for three days and nights. Then I'll take a bus or train to Vienna and hang there for three days as well. The hostels I'm staying in seem 'hip' and young, so hopefully I'll make some friends on my solo adventure. I'm really excited for both places. Judging by my US$13 a night stay in Budapest, things will be very affordable. Now that I'm no longer receiving checks from work, this is important. It's especially important because when I get back from the East I will have a day or two of rest before heading to Paris. I'm in the process of trying to find an apartment to rent during my week stay. There are surprisingly affordable places, so I'm trying to get one locked down before I leave this Sunday. The round trip bus to Paris is only around 50 euro/US$75... can't pass that up!

This weekend should be pretty laid back. The Esslingen Christmas market just started so we're going to that on Saturday night with some friends. It's so MAGICAL. We'll take some photos and load them after. It's huge and full of cute stuff, food and especially drinks. It's getting a bit colder here, so we're looking forward to some warm beverages. I didn't realize how many people lived in this village until I've walked around the market. Tons of people are out for it. There is also a medieval carnival that comes to town at the same time. I walked through it yesterday but wasn't as fanatic about it. Lots of men in medieval outfits and huts full of animal skin/furs... there is also a manger set up with four sheep in it and a donkey. Not sure why. After seeing my first pair of lederhosen on a short elderly and plump man with a homemade cane yesterday I have high expectations for this festival.

Apologies for mispellings, my internet is being too slow for me to go through the pain of editing. Happy Thanksgiving! ~Kara

Monday, November 21, 2011

To the top of Ulm Cathedral

We're still playing catch up with our posts, so here's an update to how we spent our Sunday last weekend.
Our friends, Veronica and Jason, rented a car and took us on a tour of the sites not far out of Esslingen.

Our first stop was Ulm, a town only an hour outside of Esslingen. The most popular attraction here was the Ulm Cathedral - the tallest cathedral in the world at 521ft. What makes it additionally special is you can climb to the very top of the 521ft spire...and the staircases are not indoors.

It was a foggy day, which is normally considered a negative when site seeing. When testing the limits of your fear of heights, it's very much a positive.  It also makes for some fabulous photography. As you can see above, the last third of the spire was engulfed in clouds.

We started out touring the interior of the Cathedral. The first foundation stone was laid in 1377, although many issues arose during the construction, and while functional, the church was not fully completed until 513 years later, in 1890.

We began our ascent up the 768 stairs. The staircases were a spiral all the way to the top, with large windowless openings in the stone, partitioned by steel bars so it was more difficult to fall out. The spiral was very constricted. Along the lower walls of our ascent were hundreds of carvings and etchings - many dating back to the early 1900's and some, like this one, to the late 1800's. (1877)

The staircases were broken up into segments of a few hundred. At our first stop was the above room, lined in early sketches and photographs of all the major cathedrals in the world. In the center was the bell chamber, which had viewing glasses to the bells below.

The bells.

A couple tiers later, we reached the final set to the steeple. Previously, we had been twisting up staircases that were just wide enough to fit 2 people. At the next stage, the stairs narrowed to the width of one person. This meant if someone was coming down, both of you had to put your backs to a wall and shimmy along each other (We got the opportunity to try this. It was terrifying.)

As scary as it was this high up, the fog floating through the carved out walls was beautiful.

Kara expresses her love for the final ascent. I also forgot to mention it was just above freezing and everything was wet. The twisting stone to the right in this photo is actually the "hand rail," and although those look like windows, there's no glass there. Just big hollow openings.

We reach the top! Everyone is thoroughly terrified, wet, and freezing. Through the fog you can barely make out the tops of buildings below, and the platform we have to stand on is only about 20" wide.

We made our way back down, which turned out to be even more disorienting then the way up. I was fighting off my body's urge to break into a paralyzed fear based panic the whole way. Once you make it half way, you realize that the lower staircases were actually spacious in comparison. Above is a scale model of the cathedral in the center of Ulm. All in all, it was the best experience yet.

Just last night we got back from our trip to Italy and Switzerland. We've got more photos to sort through, so we'll get them up as soon as we can.

- Dave

Thursday, November 17, 2011


After a gorgeous 12 hour drive, through the Italian Alps, in our 2011 Audi TT with only 1,000 km on it (awesome), we've arrived in Florence. We spent the day exploring without a real destination and it couldn't have gone better. There's really no wrong turn in the city. Getting lost is the best thing you could do. We're back at the hostel now, getting ready to go out (it's 8:30pm) so here's a couple quick shots from the day. We'll post more later, but just wanted to let you all know we're doing great.
Talk to you soon,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Update: Road Trip

After a busy weekend of exploring Germany, Dave and I are getting ready for our international road trip. The new route starts Wednesday morning from Esslingen through the Stelvio pass to Florence. It'll be a lot of driving in one day, but then we'll have a few days in Florence. I've always wanted to go to there and we have just enough time to do it.

On Saturday we'll start the trek back up along the Ligurian coast. The initial plan was to stay on the coast in Cinque Terre, but with all the hiking involved and our tight schedule we decided Florence is more fitting. The coast drive Saturday morning will go through Milan and by Lake Como. Dave can then check the St. Gotthard pass off his bucket list while I take nausea medicine. We'll spend Saturday night and Sunday in Lucerne before coming back to Germany. My mom celebrated her twenty first birthday in Lucerne, so I will also be celebrating the visit like it's my 21st birthday.. which actually occurred in Leeds, England at bars where everyone was younger than me. I tried to stay at the same Hotel Diana she did, but I can't figure out if it's still there so I got a place nearby.

We have a lot of photos from this weekend to rummage through and will upload them soon!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Road trip: Italy and Switzerland

Here's the proposed, loose plan so far for next week! The only certainties at the moment are the Stelvio pass down to the Italian coastal region of Liguria and a stop in Cinque Terre Italy, where we'll ditch the car and walk these beautiful 5 fishing towns. Then we'll hit Genoa, Italy and start heading north to Switzerland, possibly stopping in Milan on the way. If we take the Gotthards pass in Switzerland then we'll probably stay east and see Lucerne and/or Zurich.

First blog contest! Which of these locations were chosen by Dave? Which by Kara?