Italy

 

 

\Long time no post and I apologize! I’ve been relaxing and catching up on work since my world wind adventure to the Netherlands, Germany and then Scotland right after. Now I’m resting in a lovely airbnb with my mom as we adventure through Ireland. But before there was the great Ireland adventure there was Italy. I’ll post more on each post specifically, however I will mention that as beautiful as Italy was this was my most stressful trip. It probably didn’t make sense in the order I went in, but I started in Milan, went to Florence where we got lost, next was Rome, and then Venice probably my favorite.

 

Navigating your way through a foreign country with only your friends who don’t speak (or in the case of Richelle speak a bit of) is tiring. By the end of the trip I was done, this picture above was only in Florence but it sums out how my trip was.

Milan

I landed in Milan where I met up with Richelle who is another study abroad student from UMW, shes spending her semester in Milan, which was beautiful and she showed me around. We went to a water castle.

Florence

Mollie flew in to Milan where I met up with her and we finished out our week taking the trip to Florence, Rome, and Venice. Where we enjoyed gelato, pizza, and pasta.

Edinburgh

I love the Scottish accent there I said it. I think it’s wonderful, and just as I adjusted to the other British accents I heard, being in Scotland required a certain turning of the ear when listening to the natives. However apparently Edinburgh is considered the “posh” area of Scotland so the accents there for the most part were very easy.

Scotland

Anna being Anna, and me being me, just happened to drag ourselves to the Scottish Museum. It was big and interesting and not at all what I expected. However it was free, and that is an universal favorite word of University students.

For all you Harry Potter fans out there, Anna and I did the free Harry Potter tour where you can see direct places that JK Rowling got her influence from. Such as theres a school, that has four houses that the houses of Hogwarts mirror. However sadly there is no sorting hat, and students are placed randomly into the houses.

Scotland

This is the Elephant House cafe which is where most of the third and fourth books were written. JK Rowling wrote in back room where she could see the grave yard, that inspired a scene from the fourth book, and Edinburgh castle which was an inspiration for Hogwarts Castle.

Scotland

A really cool thing is inside the bathrooms almost every inch of it is covered with graffiti, from book quotes, to what Harry Potter means to people, thank you notes to JK Rowling, and the unofficial official sign up place for Dumbledores Army.

Scotland

It may not look like much but this is the inspiration for Diagon Alley! We know this because JK Rowling has said so herself.

As much as Elephant Cafe may call themselves the birth place of Harry Potter, it was more likely this place called Spoon, which is where she wrote the entire first book, and provides much more of a friendly writing environment than Elephant House Cafe.

Scotland

Anna and I settled down for some tea and ginger beer after our tour so we could relax before going back into the cold and rain. It was a perfect place to relax and the next day we went for brunch we liked it THAT much.

Scotland

Edinburgh castle was just as magnificent as you would expect from a proper medieval castle. It was  like a little town once you entered the gates, and I don’t mean because of gift shops, I mean because you could tell that people worked and lived in the same area.

Scotland

Scotland

The view from the castle was the perfect view of the entire city it was for fear of being too repetitive in these posts, breath taking.

Scotland

I laughed out loud at this cafe… I just could not pass up an opportunity to get a picture of this sign.

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

The queen like with Stirling castle is required to visit here once a year at least. There’s three official royal castles (not places) I think and two are in Scotland if I remember/ heard correctly.

Scotland

Scotland

You see how green that grass it? That’s because it rains folks. A lot. It rained even at the end of our only sunny day. I wore rain boots the entire time I was there.  Fun fact though, whenever I would bring up I’m going to Uni in North Wales, they would say stuff like “it rains more there than it does here!” So I guess I get the worst of it, and it just follows me wherever.

Scotland

A beautiful stain glass window, from St. Margaret’s Chapel which is the oldest part of the castle. I had to take a picture.

Scotland

And as always my odds and ends to tie up this post. We were able to see the Scottish crown jewels but pictures were unfortunately not allowed. We wandered a lot when went shopping on the Royal Mile, which is a street leading up (or away depending on which direction you’re going), from the castle.

We walked in and out of quite a few free museums and galleries, and neither Anna or tried Haggis. I did however find a cathedral so my cathedral and castle count both increase by 1. With castle still very much so in the lead. I would love to travel to other parts of Scotland it’s such a wonderful place.

Castle Count: 10

Cathedral Count: 6

The Highlands

I traveled to the lands of kilts and bagpipes this week, (and no I don’t mean ALL of Scotland I mean the highlands). Much like how Bavarian tradition is what most people attribute to Germany, the highlands, ie kilts, bagpipes, ect is what has been attributed to all of Scotland. Anna and I booked a tour for a day, it was called Rabbies highland tours, or something like that and it was amazing, and I recommend it to everyone! We choose the trip in the west highlands, and after waking up at the wee crack of dawn we were off. Our tour guide asked us where everyone was from, and I panicked and said Costa Rica… not a complete lie. From then on I alternated telling people I was from Wales (for ease) and from DC.

For all you Game of Thrones, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and/or Outlander fans out there, we went to Doune Castle, which has been featured in all of them.

Scotland

The electronic tour was given by the guys from Monty Python with special interruptions from the actor that plays Jamie Fraser.

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The gift shop was benefiting from being the sight of Castle Leoch, and Winterfell for sure, I myself picked up a few post cards and shot glass.

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From there we went to our first Loch of many, it was stunning as the water was incredibly clear.

Scotland

You can tell when once you enter into the highlands, there’s a shift of scenery, and theres a ton mo

re cattle, and sheep.

Panoramas

I’m pleased to announce we didn’t find any monsters.

Scotland

From this lake is also where the first photo in this post was taken… just in case anyone couldn’t tell.

So lets think from just one hour in the highlands my castle count has already increased by one. Keep an eye because that’s going to keep increasing.

Scotland

There was this quaint little town that we traveled to, and was instructed by our tour guide to NOT go into the gift shop or he would leave us. It was around here we stopped for lunch.

Scotland

There were these rapids that reminded me a lot of great falls, and surprise surprise they were just magnificent.

Scotland

Scotland

There was a point in the tour where the guide was showing us a map of the highlands with all the clans charted out (he’s from clan Gordon in case anyone was wondering), and we heard this nose and it was a farmer calling his sheep to feed them. Anna freaked out.

Scotland

Our day in the highlands was perfect weather… well actually it could of been a tab bit warmer, but it was still sunny. I’m pretty sure it was the only day Anna was here that it was truly sunny.

Scotland

Castle count is up by one. Keep track. This was a medieval  fortress on a loch, that had a grizzly scene where one clan beheaded around 13 members of another clan. Soon after it was abandoned.

Scotland

The history of the highland clans is a lot of fighting between each other, the predominate cause being that some of them were for the Protestant cause, and others were Catholic. This caused a lot of turmoil in the lands.

Scotland

Surprise surprise another castle! Guess what? The owner of this Castle is from the clan Campell (fairly certain could be wrong,) and is a friend of Prince Charles.

Scotland

Scotland

Below the castle was a town, with a cute little street, and it was on the Atlantic ocean. There were so many birds I thought I was going to be attacked Anna liked it a lot.

Scotland

I did like the ducks though, I love ducks they’re great. I don’t like swans very much they’re evil, and I don’t like seagulls at all.

Scotland

This is another place that Outlander was filmed. I only know this because the tour guide told us that he saw all the buses out and the filming.

Scotland

The pass has a name, I think it was called pray and be thankful, because the roads to it were quite turbulent, and I’m sure that the poor horses were almost dead after doing this.

Scotland

Or maybe it was rest and be thankful. Either way I was thankful to be there. However as you can tell the weather started taking a turn by the end of the tour, I mean it is the UK after all I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Scotland

The last castle we saw was Stirling castle, and the queen visits it once a year. The pictures are a little bad because it was getting dark at this point. But you can see how it’s built on a hill, and in some spots even into the hill. It was the key to controlling Scotland. It’s what Bonnie Prince Charlie failed to capture to put a Stuart back on the throne of the UK.  Quite cool. That makes four castles in highlands, that we stopped out but if I’m being honest there was a lot more.

 

We weren’t able to get to Inverness or isle of Skye which is way up in the highlands but I very much want to. I heard it’s beautiful and I have to make it there. It’s also where the battle of Culloden happened, which is where the Jacobite forces were defeated, and the English ransacked the highlands, creating it what it is now, which is a much reduced population from what it once was.

Castle Count: 9

Cathedral Count: 5

Bavaria

This is my last post on Germany and I’m using to sum up other tidbits about this beautiful country. The Alps start in Bavaria, and were stunning. The spring water coming from them causes all the lakes to be clean, and drinkable (although I did not drink from them you could.)

*** because I’ve been asked a bit, that is a blanket scarf I bought from Zara while in Germany, and it was windy so it kept flying off, so I used it as a wrap. It was very comfy and warm***

I was overjoyed there was snow on the mountains because at least I got to see a little bit of snow this winter.

On shrove Tuesday almost nothing was open so we ended up at the botanical gardens, luckily it was inside, because the weather was cold rainy and windy…bleh.

There was beautiful flowers, lots of succulents (which are my favorite because I can’t kill them!), odd looking fruit, and this little guy which made me miss my own turtle.

We went into the butterfly exhibit where we were attacked by butterflies and children alike.

There’s a place a that is stunning in every way possible. I cried when they said it was only a summer residence (not really but when you see how beautiful it was you might cry too.)

If you think the exterior is impressive just wait.

Munich and the rest of Bavaria was absolutely amazing, the food with great (as long as you like meat and carbs), and the people were wonderful. The scenery as I have said was breath taking. I recommend it everyone and I know that this will not be my last time there.

Hohenschwangau Castle

Ludwig the II may have built (incomplete at that) Neuschwanstein, but he grew up in Hohenschwangau. Like the previous pictures were not allowed inside. So outside had to do, and no this is not a Spanish castle although it does kind of look like it.

The castle was originally built as a nights stronghold around the late 12th century- 13th century. It changed hands multiple times before it feel into disrepair in the 17th century.

Lugwigs father Maximilian II of Bavaria, decided to restore it, in the 19th century. Once it was complete it became the official hunting and summer residence of the royal family.

The floor was kept the same from the middle ages, and the castle was rebuilt with the ruins from the strong hold, giving it a much older look than it currently is.

Ludwig’s room had a telescope pointed to Neuschwanstein where he could watch it being built.

The last residence of the castle lived in it during the 1940’s (according to Wikipedia), since then it has been open to the public for tours.

Valentin and I agreeded that Neuschwanstein is mine, and this one is his. Everyone else can share the smaller castle or “castlette” which is about an hour away, and use to the summer residence of the royal family until this was built.

This castle once again ties up the castle and cathedral count!

Castle Count:5

Cathedral Count: 5

Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein castle was Walt Disneys inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle.

It was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the nineteenth century. Many of Richard Wagners (good friend of Ludwig and writer of the Wedding March!) stories are on the walls. 

The castle was never finished. King Ludwig has a premature death (probably suicide) before it could be complete, there for the throne room is missing a throne, the chapel was never built and not all the paintings are finished. 

There was this bridge that offered a fantastic vantage point for pictures. It was breath taking.

The castle is known for its pictureque winter scenes with the alps behind it and the snow covering, its easy to see why Ludwig was called the fairy tale king.  

This stunning castle was paid for out of Ludwigs own personal funds rather than tax payers. It was meant to a secluded get away for the private and deeply religious king. However six years after his death it was opened to the public.  We weren’t allowed pictures inside so we have a quite a few from outside. But look at this? Do you blame us?

A lovely castle on the hill.

Cathedral Count: 5

Castle Count: 4

Munich

A few years ago my dear friend Valentin spent a year in the states where we attended high school together, and took culinary. Every summer dear Valentine comes back for a visit, and sometimes he also comes back for winter or spring break. Every time he comes we tell him we’ll visit him eventually, being in Europe for a semester Germany was number 1 on my list to get to, and luckily we had reading week, and Valentin had a break so I was able to stay with him in Germany, and he was gracious enough to pause and take pictures while I took everything in with out a camera lenses.

Munich has three gates around the city from the original ‘old city’.

It was  Mardi  Gras so one of the gates of the to Munich had  a funny little clown and I loved it.The weather was also incredibly nice, I might be exaggerating but it was the first time I saw real sun in like 2 weeks. It was so nice that at one point when Vale and I were walking through the park he was in short sleeves. However by the time of night fall I was back in my north face, and the next day was cold and rainy, just like Wales.

 

We took advantage of this warm weather! With little to no clouds in the sky, we climbed to the top of this old church tower, where we could see the city in all its glory.

A closer up on the building is below.

You may recognize it from pictures of Munich during the the 3rd Reich, when the Nazi flag was flying from the building. On another note in the center is the Virgin Mother with Christ, in this beautiful gold statue, that reigns above it all.

The thing with Munich is although you can’t see any real damage from the war, what you can see is places that should have old buildings and instead have new ones that are sometimes ugly. These new buildings were built to replace the old historic ones. Sometimes they would use some of the rubble to rebuild what was lost but most of the time they built what was cheap and easy.

At noon these little guys would dance, it was great. The bells rang and everyone stopped and watched.

There was this beautiful park that was larger than central park so we didn’t do near the entire thing.

From there we traveled to their victory gate, because remember WWII wasn’t the only war Germany fought in.

There was this old building that was mostly destroyed during the war but had the remains built into the new one instead of tearing the whole thing down. I just thought it was neat.

On our way to the Olympic tower we witnessed the Victory angel, and the parliament building.

Bavarian’s are kind of like Texans, they’re proud of Germany but they’re also very proud of their state.

(This comes from a really cool square called Kings square if I remember correctly, its not one of the old gates of the city but its a square that everything looks very ancient Greek.)

Finally we ended our very long trip around the city at the Olympic tower, and watched the sunset. Let me just say the sun setting over the Alps is stunning and unbelievable.

 

Munich- Churches

As much as I love Churches I think I need a break from walking seeing a bunch of them for a while. Munich is heavily Catholic, and had a church on every block.

 

The nets over it are to stop pigeons from landing on the statues. Honestly at this point I don’t remember what pictures belong to what churches.I know that Saint Micheal’s church it’s where Ludwig II of Bavaria’s remains are. The detail was breath taking.

I don’t remember the name of this church (if you went as many as I did you wouldn’t either!) It was built to look like there was no windows, the story goes the devil commanded them to build a church with no windows, and they tried to trick him, because when you look forward there doesn’t seem like there’s windows, and when the devil found out he became so mad he stomped on his foot and left the print above which has been there since the original construction. That’s also the tomb of one of their kings. I forget which one.

 

This one was my favorite. It was so simple but extravagant, with the marble detailing. It’s so crazy to believe that it was all hand carved.

 

I almost 100% positive that this was the cathedral, it was partly destroyed in WWII, and has been rebuilt since.

Cathedral Count: 5

Castle Count: 3 (for now)

Netherlands

Incredibly flat, canals as far as the eye can see, and more bikes than people the Netherlands were amazing! I seemed to have Welsh weather follow me to Holland because the weather was cold and rainy, (nothing I’m not use to, I go to Uni in Wales so I have an umbrella with me at all times!). From Manchester it was a flight under an hour, which I LOVED and was pleasantly surprised.

I was fortunate enough to have a friend that lives in Leiden which I think is more authentic looking because it’s less touristy, and more true to the history and architecture (notice the bikes). It had a lot of cool areas, and we ended up going to the botanical garden there, and seeing some of their more famous places… fun fact!– The artist Rembrant hails from Leiden his house is about 10 minutes away from where I was staying but I never made it.

 

I arrived on Friday, and on Saturday we spent the day in actual Amsterdam.. YES we went into the red light district.. I finally understand why it’s called that.. (spoiler there’s a lot of red lights.) We were walking around 5 pm, so it was starting to get dark, but it still wasn’t late enough for a lot of the prostitutes, but I turned around and was like oh found one!

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I never made it to the Anne Frank house because the line is crazy long, and in order to do that I would have to order tickets on long if I didn’t want to wait, so I’m planning on going back for that eventually. I did however, make it to the Rijksmuseam.

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Shop Cat!^

 

We spend only a few hours in there but I could of spent all day!

It had this stunning library that I would have died to live in. There was a lot of Rembrants, a few Picasso’s, a section on Modern Art, and then little relics and statues and stuff from the “golden age of the Netherlands”, which if I remember correctly is the 18th century.  Of course me being me I was more than joyed to go into a church which was stunning. It was called St. Nikolas Basilica, unfortunately none of my pictures do it credit.

Other tidbits-

You have to pay for water in mainland Europe, I was NOT happy. Their glasses are crazy small and like thimbles. I thought I was going to break my necks on the stairs, they’re so steep!

 

Thanks Abelle for having me! It was great! Sorry the picture quality is bad, it was from my phone.

Cathedral and Castle Count remain the same.

Dachau

About 30 minutes from Valentin’s house was Dachau concentration camp. The horrors of World War II are nothing I’m not accustomed to. I’ve read Night and Survival in Auschwitz. I’ve watched boy in the stripped Pajamas, and took a seminar on genocide my first year at UMW. Living near DC I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum more than once, so like I said, the horrors that were committed during the second world war are nothing I am not accustomed to.

However with that said, I don’t think anyone could ever be prepared for stepping foot in an actual Concentration camp. Dachau was the first concentration camp set up, and the last one to be liberated. To give you an idea of how long it was open- 12 years. Like in Auschwitz(which is where the architect actually got the idea) is the motto work will set you fee. It’s not nearly as big or as brooding as the one in Auschwitz but it’s still daunting.

Dachau was made to hold 6,000 and around the end of the War it was holding 60,000.  There’s not pictures of it but there were gas chambers (‘shower chambers’), I couldn’t bring myself to take any pictures of it, but chills would be an understatement.

It reads ‘graves of thousands unknown’, there were crematoriums, and they would just bury the ashes of the deceased.

It reads ‘never forget what happened to us here’, and we never will.